i’m jealous of il lee

Whoa. I lost my breath when I saw this work. The beauty, and stunning simplicity, of blue ballpoint pen on canvas… really, really, really big canvas! Korean born, Brooklyn based artist Il Lee started working like this over 30 years ago, and still continues today… now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m suddenly inspired to run out and pick up a few pens. Blue ones.

{Thanks to David Garber for sending me a link to Anthology, who recently featured Il’s work.}

comments (31)

  1. Robin Romain /// 08.22.2011 /// 8:09am

    Whoa is right!

  2. Nicole Longstreath /// 08.22.2011 /// 9:16am

    OMG – amazing. I thought it was incredible, until I scrolled further down and saw the scale.

  3. the jealous curator /// 08.22.2011 /// 10:01am

    the same thing happened to me! i was already in love, and then the scale took my breath away. so stunning.

  4. Jonas Seaman /// 08.22.2011 /// 10:50am

    Wow!! That’s beautiful!!

  5. suzanne /// 08.22.2011 /// 11:50am

    Amazing is the word. He had a couple of works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art a few months ago … ink-less ballpoint on huge canvas and a smaller work on paper. You gotta see it in person!

  6. Ella /// 08.22.2011 /// 1:55pm

    I’d seen one or two images of these fl

  7. Ella /// 08.22.2011 /// 1:58pm

    Grr…premature send! Anyway, what I was saying was that I’d seen these before but had never realized they were freaking huge! That’s a LOT of ball pen hours. Thanks for sharing that very important point! I love it when artists makes rethink simple objects. Who knew you could make something so sublime with a biro?!

  8. Wendel /// 08.23.2011 /// 4:20am

    WOW! This really takes your breath away… I imagine standing in front of one of these works would feel like standing in front of a Rothko. I love how the artist brought these simple and small ball pen line to monumental proportions.

  9. the jealous curator /// 08.23.2011 /// 6:44am


  10. nick /// 08.23.2011 /// 7:40am

    There energy is awesome, yet serene like Rothko.

  11. Carmen /// 08.23.2011 /// 8:38pm

    Whoa!!! I’m in love! In grade school, we used to make pools of ink on our melamine desktops with ball point pens. I would never have dreamed someone could take it to this level. I would love to experience this in person.

  12. the jealous curator /// 08.23.2011 /// 10:26pm

    me too. the scale alone is stunning, but to get up close and see the concentration of ink/lines would be amazing.

  13. Megan /// 08.24.2011 /// 8:57pm

    have you seen any of Sol Lewitt’s work in person? I was lucky enough to watch the “Wall Drawing #1268” drawing in progress and the final result. amazing. these pieces by Lee have a similar feel.

  14. Pattern Pulp - Friday Quick Links! /// 08.26.2011 /// 11:02am

    […] 12 Il Lee does pretty amazing work with only a ballpoint pen and a canvas via The Jealous Curator […]

  15. theGK /// 08.26.2011 /// 11:33pm

    these are absolutely gorgeous

  16. the jealous curator /// 08.27.2011 /// 6:40am

    yes, yes they are! (i knew you’d love them!)

  17. Sara /// 08.28.2011 /// 7:56am

    this makes me whimper. simple and grand. thanks.

  18. the jealous curator /// 08.28.2011 /// 2:58pm

    simple and grand… what a perfect description. and as far as the whimpering goes… yes, me too ; )

  19. 24th Street Design » Archive » Artist Crush: Il Lee /// 09.26.2011 /// 12:33pm

    […] (via thejealouscurator) […]

  20. E. /// 09.28.2011 /// 8:23am

    I love them too and featured him on my blog a while ago


    Belgian artist Jan Fabre did similar ballpoint-pen art in the eighties. You might like his work too.

    x E.

  21. Il Lee… | Crafted by Lindy /// 09.12.2012 /// 4:44am

    […] enjoyed drawing with a pen but this is just amazing! Beyond amazing! By artist Il Lee via the blog The Jealous Curator. Found on […]

  22. Natalie /// 10.01.2012 /// 10:05am

    I just saw his work this summer in Seoul, South Korea. The texture he is able to work up on the canvas creates amazing volume in the work, which I think is unexpected given his media. When your close to the work its thick, palpable, and atmospheric.

  23. the jealous curator /// 10.01.2012 /// 10:37am

    oh, i would LOVE to see these in person – lucky you!

  24. » The Sunday Brunch Buffet 12/30/2012 The Live-In Kitchen /// 12.29.2012 /// 11:02pm

    […] There’s something really beautiful about the simplicity of Il Lee. […]

  25. Sdfi /// 04.23.2013 /// 11:30am

    Excellent blog right here! Additionally your website loads up fast! What web host are you the usage of? Can I get your associate hyperlink in your host? I want my web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  26. joeb /// 07.12.2013 /// 11:28am

    Il Lee work is pure energy documented. A monumental ballpoint on canvas and a large framed ballpoint on paper in THE ALDRICH Contemporary Art Museum’s “Extreme Drawing” show — great!

  27. the jealous curator /// 07.15.2013 /// 7:37am

    his work truly is amazing!

  28. Required Reading - Rebecca Atwood Designs /// 01.02.2015 /// 4:02am

    […] Ball point pen elevated to a whole new level. […]

  29. Molly Spain /// 02.10.2015 /// 11:39am

    ME TOO!

  30. friday finds | by bun /// 05.01.2015 /// 3:09am

    […] so hypnotized by this work by il lee…in ballpoint pen! […]

  31. angela dagostino /// 03.28.2017 /// 6:24pm

    Impressive. When I was a little girl my dad would draw like this only on a much smaller scale. He said it was a form of meditation and it would help him to find answers to the BIG questions in life. I understood why he enjoyed doing it but he would not show the work to just anyone, this form of drawing was private, a personal journey and introspective. Generally speaking most other viewers during that time period (circa 1970) would be critical and non-accepting . It made me feel happy to see this work here today, I have a common foundation. Thank you for your generosity in sharing this beautiful work. I think the comparison to the Rothko viewing experience is pretty “right-on” too.