Penstrokes: An Interview with Callan Ponsford


Callan Ponsford is a recent B.F.A. grad in Studio Arts at Concordia with a concentration in Drawing and Painting. In 2016, he was the recipient of the Cecil Buller – John J. A Murphy Scholarship in drawing, and in 2017, the Lise-Hélène Larin Scholarship in drawing which both recognize excellence within the undergraduate drawing department. 

Ponsford uses ballpoint pens to create images that imitate the look of dense paintings while still retaining the immediacy of a line drawing. The work typically stems from an idea that is not adequately described verbally, an idea that only the peculiar logic of an image could support. These ideas are then filtered through various visual languages such as that of landscape, figuration, illustration and abstraction in order to position the work in unfamiliar visual territory.

You’re a young artist with a rather unique style. Why do you use ballpoint pens in your work ? Tell us a bit about your process.

What I like about ballpoint pens is that they impose limitations on me.  I started out as a painter but found that everything happened too fast when I painted.  Even if the outcome was satisfying, the process was not.  Working with drawing materials forces me to slow down and spend more time with the image.  It also takes away any anxiety over choosing a colour palette.  You really have to make do with whatever inks the pen companies decide to release, which is not many.  I enjoy those parameters while I’m working.

How do you come up with an idea for a painting ? What inspiration informs your work ? What are you trying to achieve in your work ?

I’m inspired by moments from my daily life.  I try to think about scenarios or objects that lend themselves to the material I am using; particular shapes, textures and colours that I know I will be able to render with pens.  I rarely make sketches before I begin something though.  I like to start with a loose idea and then see where the process takes me. Sometimes the final piece drifts far from my initial concept. I always want to make something that even I am confused by.

Is the imagery a projection of real life events that have happened to you ? How much of reality itself is twisted or manipulated to reach that feeling of “fantasy” in your work ?

Each drawing is rooted in an experience I have had.  I think a lot of the time I am trying to mystify a memory that through time has sort of lost its magic or intensity.  In a sense I feel like I am polishing a dull stone, trying to restore some of the lustre that was there originally.


Why do you choose to abstract the imagery itself ? They are readable in multiple ways.

As a viewer I enjoy works that are ambiguous.  I find it boring when a work has a one single meaning that the artist is trying to get across.  I think about language a lot when I work.  I like the idea of a quadruple-entendre.  An image whose meaning can drastically shift depending on how you interpret it is a successful one to me.

What about 2D visual art / images is of particular interest to you ?

The idea that images can support ulterior logic to everyday life.  Time does not work the same way in a drawing as it does in other mediums.  I like that drawings don’t begin or end, they just stay put, not frozen, just very very still.

What’s next for you?

In my immediate future, I must must must finish the Alien series because I’m getting lots of ideas for drawings from that.  More distantly I am looking to apply to one single grad school soon so fingers crossed I get in.  Otherwise I am just going to plug away and keeping making things!

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