When she was growing up, the artist Nuria Riaza remembers, her parents didn’t seem to care as much about what she watched. Born in 1990, Riaza consumed TV and movies as she pleased, her childhood permeated with the fantastical images of pop culture classics like Beetlejuice, The X-Files, and The Addams Family.
“We grew up consuming bizarre images and aesthetic genius,” Riaza tells Creators. “It’s something you can’t erase; it stays in your subconscious.”
Riaza’s appetite for creepy-cool images emerges in the highly detailed pieces she creates using only ballpoint pen. Starting when she was five or six years old, she used the pens as her medium, but it wasn’t until she was an adult that she started taking the drawing tool more seriously. As a fine arts student at Mexico City’s Polytechnic University, where she was “21 years old… and broke,” she explains, Riaza needed to find a cheap alternative to paint.
“I ended up drawing with pen on paper and I went crazy seeing all the possibilities that medium could offer. Basically I fell in love with the stroke and the color.”
Riaza’s pieces are a blue dream, each mark of her ballpoint pen purposeful and carefully placed. It takes the eyes a bit of time to adjust, but once the viewer gets used to the blue landscape, Riaza’s attention to detail is evident. Many of her pieces follow a Surrealist vein, often resembling collage in their layering of nature, humans, symbols and more.
The process becomes such a huge part of taking in each piece. Using ballpoint pen as a tool seems simple, but the resulting compositions are complex.
“I draw many hours a day and I sleep very little,” says Riaza. “I’m usually balancing many projects at one time. There’s not an exact time length for production, it depends a lot on the size and what I’m enjoying about the drawing. It’s evident that it looks like a slow process, mostly because of the concentration you need, but once you dominate it, the work is quick.”
The artist can often turn around commissions within a day, but prefers to work more slowly to enjoy the process.
Her Instagram is a gorgeous feed of blue pieces, and also information on her upcoming projects (which she has plenty of at the moment).
“Right now I’m involved in an amazing project with Jorge Drexler,” says Riaza. “I’m in charge of doing the artwork for his new CD, Salvavidas de Hielo, which will be out in September.”
She’s also created animated videos for the album; in the meantime, she’s at work on her next exhibition, the dates of which she plans to announce on social media.
It all comes back to her love of the ballpoint pen, a passion she encourages others to explore.
“I recommend that you try and use the pen as something more than a writing tool—to eat it as if it were a toothpick, to make fake tattoos with it, to use them as rollers in your hair, and to draw a lot. It’s something almost therapeutic, like how people draw mandalas, and you learn that the mistakes are also beautiful on paper.”
Click here to visit Nuria Riaza’s website.
Parts of this interview were translated from Spanish by the writer.