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The Art Of The Black Ballpoint Pen By Chanelle Rose

Words by Yianina Small

Chanelle Rose is a contemporary Australian artist who specialises in using a black ballpoint pen to create hyper realistic artworks. She has recently garnered much attention and support following her work with hip hop legend Busta Rhymes, on his cover artwork for his new album Extinction Level Event 2 (ELE2).

Having attained a Bachelor of Arts degree and majoring in Contemporary Art, Chanelle immersed herself within the creative field utilising her ample experience and astonishing talent. She began her art journey experimenting with a range of mediums including paint, spray paint and collages before discovering her calling – a ballpoint pen. The lack of mess when using a pen (in comparison to other mediums) was an advantage, and it enabled her to shade effectively while creating intricate detail in her work. Chanelle has praised the ballpoint pen as a powerful tool as errors cannot be erased, which emphasises the importance of focus and concentration. Currently she uses an archival ballpoint pen and it’s ink, on Fabriano drawing paper. The artworks can be described as photographic, with incredible levels of detail and realism. Using props as subjects, Chanelle habitually sketches the outlines in pencil first before going in with the pen. Each piece takes approximately 6-8 weeks to complete, and her favourite part of the process is coming up with the concept – something that will resonate with herself and others. She loves to create strong characters and her artworks demonstrate the study of human inner perceptions, defined as ‘a representation of our summoned heroic self when faced with social fears or injustices’. When it comes to her art, Chanelle is inspired by her own journey in life and personal reflections.

Busta Rhymes’ new album ‘ELE2’ was released on the 30th of October 2020, featuring Chanelle’s pen drawing of a masked skull as the iconic album artwork. Her work was initially introduced to Busta Rhymes by fellow musician Swizz Beatz, and the rapper immediately fell in love with her mind-blowing art. He affirmed that Chanelle’s art style correlated with ELE2 emotionally, conceptually and visually, purchasing a 10 piece art collection from her for his album and home. The artwork featured on his album cover depicts a side facing skull wearing a collared suit and a mask with blades (matching both the tone of the album and current events). Skulls are a common motif throughout Chanelle’s work, representing people’s inner dialogue and not death, darkness, or evil as skulls are frequently used to symbolise. For her, skulls have no negative connotation but instead signify what it is to be human. Furthermore, they don’t have any distinguishable facial features that may allude to gender, race or culture. Chanelle intends for the viewer to fixate solely on the emotion/theme portrayed and hopefully relate to it or draw strength from it.

This was not the first time Chanelle and Busta Rhymes had collaborated on a project; she was commissioned by the rapper to produce an artwork for his highly anticipated single ‘Girlfriend’ feat. Vybz Kartel and Tory Lanez, released on the 25th of August 2017. This cover art took almost 40 ballpoint pens in total to complete, and was created based only on telephone discussions with the rapper who explained his vision of a ‘glamorous dominatrix girlfriend’ for the single cover.

Chanelle’s work can be purchased through her website and she can be followed at @chanelle_rose on Instagram.

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