This month we have been talking to Stuart Bourn…
Welcome to The Pen Company’s first ever interview. Join us as we talk to Chris R. Wright; actor, writer, film-maker, Big Brother 2014 contestant and ballpoint pen artist. He may be a man of many talents, but that doesn’t mean he lacks flair in any of his ventures; his ballpoint pen artwork is superb, despite having his fingers in so many creative pies. Learn more about Chris and his work below.
Hi Chris, tell us a bit about yourself. You’re not ‘just’ a pen artist are you?
Hi. No, I’m not. I’ve been called all manner of things, but creatively I’m an actor and film-maker at heart. It has been my profession and pastime for as long as I can recall. I write also, and have performed stand-up comedy over the years. Illustration is just the most immediate and controllable creative outlet I have, so I naturally gravitate to it when all other endeavours frustrate me. You’ll notice my extensive sketchbook is a testament to my general frustration.
We love your art work and extensive sketchbook. When did you start drawing, and at what stage did you realise you were so good at it?
Thank you. I drew a lot as a kid. I started by copying things I was in to, like Garfield, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, characters from movies I loved, etc. Then I discovered Derek Riggs, an artist who painted all the early Iron Maiden album artwork. His ‘Eddie’ character, which is featured on all of the band’s releases, is iconic. It’s dark, fun and Riggs has a bonkers imagination. I think he inspired me more than almost anyone else. I have painted over the years, but don’t have the patience to build any special skill in that area.
Did you study Art or are you self-taught?
I am self taught. I have a very stubborn, if snobbish attitude about teaching the arts. There are technical norms, tricks, and shortcuts, but I think talent is private and should be handled with great care. Art is not a military, uniformed endeavour. All the game changers we ‘study’ today broke the mould.
I understand where you are coming from. Why did you choose the humble biro as your medium?
I sort of rediscovered the ballpoint pen whilst doodling in 2008. It was a light-bulb moment. I realised I was probably more versed in this medium than any other, likely due to years of uninspiring schooling and scribbling in the margins during class. I really enjoyed it, and always applied it in the same way I would a pencil, but there was a tantalising risk factor, as you don’t have the option of an eraser. I find with pencils, I am allowed to doubt what I am imagining and how I’m executing it, because I can always rub it out and begin again. With ink, you have to commit. It is the only area in my life where I probably wholly commit to anything! Then the enjoyment becomes the improvement in your skill, because becoming more versed only aids your expression. I don’t think of myself as all that good. I know there are many better artists working with pen and ink, but I do know I’m able and always improving.
What is your favourite ballpoint pen brand? Have you experimented with different types?
I only use BIC medium black ballpoint pens. They’re easy to obtain, disposable, inexpensive. I have no desire to work with colour as yet. Mind you, I always order the same food at a restaurant once I know what I like. Perhaps I should be more adventurous, get a rollerball. Live a little.
What advice would you give any readers who might be interested in becoming an artist? Do you have any tips?
If you always enjoy it, always do it. If it displeases other people, give them up, not it. You may die penniless, but name a wealthy corpse.
Great advice. Do you ever do landscapes, Chris?
No. I’m waiting for that commission. Terrifying, but a challenge I’d accept. For my own work, I’m only attracted to things that see and breathe. Scary monsters and super creeps.
We’ll have to wait and see then! You refer to your drawings as ‘brawls’; where did that term come from?
Brawling with My Biro was simply the name I gave the folder on my Facebook when I started to share my drawings. ‘Brawls’ is just a derivative shorthand. I suppose brawling implies a fight, or struggle, which it can be both mentally and technically. I made a promise to myself when I began sharing the pictures that I’d never abandon one or throw any away. I have stuck to that. Every piece since 2008 has been shared online. I tend to see my website as a sketchbook, not a portfolio. I don’t like much of it, but I have sold many, many drawings that would have gone in the bin, so what do I know?
That’s amazingly open of you as an artist. How long does a typical ‘brawl’ take to create?
This is the question I get asked most, but I’ve never timed myself. I’ve had ample opportunity, but never thought to do so when setting out on a piece. I’d guess around 10-12 hours, depending on the scope and how many sessions required.
That’s amazing. The detail is incredible. How do you decide on your subjects?
For my personal work, ideas just pop in my head, visually or verbally, and I do my utmost to translate them on the page before I forget, or tire of them.
Does your drawing fit around your acting work quite well?
Yes, brilliantly. There is so much downtime with acting, between and during projects, so it lends itself perfectly. It also helps that I have been taking a hiatus from acting since last summer, so have had plenty of time to keep busy with it.
And talking of time off, how was your Big Brother experience?
There’s no simple answer to that. In a nutshell, it’s a lot more fun and a great deal harder than you can imagine. You meet the best and worst of humanity, that’s for sure. I made some incredible friends, and for that I am grateful.
What do you see for your future; would you like to continue drawing? Do you have any other career plans in the pipeline?
I’m currently easing myself back into film work, and hoping to go behind the camera and direct a short later this year, all being well. It’ll be something different for me, but loosely in the horror genre, which I know well. I shall continue to draw as long as the muse takes me, or as long as I need the cold, hard cash.
Thank you, Chris, for your time and your honesty! Good luck for the future.
Ways to keep up with Chris and his drawing (or perhaps get in touch for your own commission!):
Chris’s work was also featured in an earlier blog post of ours, which can be found here: 12 Amazing Ballpoint Pen Artists