The Amazing Ballpoint Pen Portraits of Enam Bosokah

Using only a simple ballpoint pen, Ghana-based artist Enam Bosokah creates stunningly realistic portraits of prominent African personalities.

“A lot of guys have already made their name using pencil, so I decided to use a pen,” Bosokah said in an interview with Anadolu Agency. “A lot of artists avoid pens because of the irreversibility (i.e., the inability to erase), but I believe it is one of the easier tools to work with. When I use the pen it is like I am adding to the paper – I can’t take it back,” he explained.


He begins a project by generating a concept and then choosing an appropriate photograph to use for reference. He then proceeds to create several layers and shades with the ballpoint pen. “Bosokah will start with wide, criss-crossing lines and refine the drawing with this repetitive motion,” My Modern Met reports. “It allows him to add as much shading as necessary to make his subjects appear three dimensional. And, looking at every highlight, subtle shadow, and texture, it’s awe-inspiring what you can do with an everyday office tool.”


Some of Bosokah’s most notable portraits are of prominent African personalities like Nelson Mandela, and Kwame Nkrumah. “I do portraits of black icons – people who lead exemplary lives,” he said. “I feel that, as black people, we are losing focus in the area of development. I feel that these icons I draw did well in their areas of development. If we look up to them, or the kind of work they did, we will learn a lot from it. These icons did so well; they might not be happy if they saw the way we are living now.”


Unlike most artists, Bosokah doesn’t require a studio to work out of. “I just need pen and paper,” he said. “From this, I will create a piece worth thousands of Ghana cedis. I want to create anywhere and anytime – that is why I use pen and paper. I can just sit on my bed and draw.” He also added that most African painters don’t do hyperrealism or photorealism, which makes his work unique. “I have been wondering if this is a deficiency in the black man, so I decided to give it a try,” he said.


“There is no name for the style of drawing I do,” he added. “There are a lot of lines and minute squares. I have not named my style as I will always change it, I didn’t want to keep to one confinement. It’s a freestyle.”


Bosokah has been drawing since he was just a young boy. “It was very early when I knew I could draw,” he told True African Art. “As I grew older, I had to fulfill the dream within me which was producing art. I went to the University, studied art, got my degree and decided to have a feel of the reality on the field of practice before I plunged into a Masters of Fine Arts degree. I eventually got disappointed going in with so much energy and optimism but with no funds. But then, I had a pen and paper, a perfect media, I thought. That was how it all began. And I am doing very well now.”


Bosokah doesn’t sell his work yet, because he wants to build a collection first. “What you need as an artist is exposure – I haven’t had that yet,” he said. “I haven’t had an exhibition where people can see my work and interact with me. When I get them together and exhibit, I can tell a story to my audience. I have a plan to get my message across to the public.”


In the meantime, he earns his bread-and-butter by accepting custom orders from fans of his art. “I get orders from all over,” he said. “I do these special orders to keep me going.” Enam charges $375 for his 8 x 11.5-inch pen portraits and $500 for the larger 11.5 X 16.5-inch variants.


For more amazing ballpoint pen masterpieces, check out the work of Juan Francisco Casas.

Photos: Enam Bosokah/Facebook