By Dan Moran
Published Issue 089, May 2021
Best of Birdy, Originally published Issue 052, April 2018
“Naoki,” ball-point pen on paper, 8.5″ x 11″, 2014.
I am a self-taught artist and have been drawing as long as I can remember, since before I could read or write. I’ve never formally studied art. I have a B.A. in Liberal Arts and an M.A. in Philosophy and Religion, and I work as a production editor of scientific and medical journals. My long-term home is Vermont, but I currently reside in Colorado.
Style and Subject Matter
I specialize in black-and-white drawings. My basic style is realistic/representational, but my subject matter often veers off into the surreal, the fantastic, and the magic realist. I also specialize in dark and horror-related images. I can draw a completely realistic portrait or figure just as easily as I can draw a zombie, a dragon, or a viking.
My main medium is ball-point pen, my favorite being Bic. Occasionally I use a roller-ball pen (meaning the other kind of Bic pen). I don’t use fancy “art” pens —I get my pens in 10-packs at drug stores. When I say I draw with pen, many people are prone to ask “Oh, pen and ink?” No, ball-point pen is something else; it’s really more like pencil, with subtle shading controlled by pressure on the page. In the art world, “pen and ink” really refers to a totally different style and medium. I do occasionally work with pencil (or, to make it sound more fancy, “graphite”), and I’ve also dabbled in charcoal, etching, painting, woodcuts, sculpture, and even silk screening. Bic pens are still my lifelong favorite.
My method is simple: I use a pen to draw on paper or vellum. Some people seem to think that I use computer programs somewhere along the way, but I don’t. All I do with computers is scan my finished drawings and then post them online. I’ve never even opened Photoshop or Illustrator or anything like that. My hand, a pen, and a blank sheet of some kind is all I need. The way I do a drawing today is no different than how I’d do it if it were 1970.