Nigerian Artist ‘Pens’ Photo-Realistic Portraits Using a Ballpoint Pen

When John J Loud, a leather tanner, wanted to mark up leather cuts, he found the pencil ineffective and the fountain pen too messy. So, he hit upon the idea of inventing the ballpoint pen that he patented in 1888. But little did he know that it’ll be used for drawing life-like sketches in times to come.

Oscar Ukonu, a self-taught hyperrealist artist based in Lagos, Nigeria, is one of the leading ballpoint pen artists.
What separates him from the rest of his ilk is the realism that he infuses in all his sketches that look no less than photographs. His dexterity and eye for detail in meticulously sketching his subjects is to be seen to be believed. He has mastered the ballpoint pen is quite evident in all his works.

Not only are Oscar Ukonu’s creations pleasing to the eye, but convey a social message too about the people of African descent. This 22-year-old portrays influential African personalities and pop culture icons. His pride in black identity is seen in all his works. It’s his exploration of Afro-realism that makes his creations stand out.

This 22-year-old shares on, “What inspired me most is because I’ve seen people do it. Artisans who don’t have professional tools, but when they look around them and see something they can use, something that’s available for them, they turn it into greater works that people who have the professional tools will envy them.”

Oscar Ukonu’s work requires patience and he has dollops of it. Little wonder he terms his process as a practice in time and patience’. His backbreaking job requires him to devote around 200 to 400 hours to a typical creation. What’s unique about his sketches is his use of only blue ink, with which he highlights the various aspects of his drawing, using the play of light and shade.

Such talent is bound to be recognized. Ukonu’s works had been part of the seminal exhibition ‘Insanity’ at Omenka Gallery in Lagos, Nigeria. His collections are also displayed in many galleries in Nigeria and abroad. On Instagram alone, he has a viewership of over 97,000 fans.

Oscar Ukonu

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