Ronn Kools’ Ballpoint Pen Visions

It wasn’t until Ronn moved to London when he started living for himself and pursuing his dreams. The move galvanized a journey of self-discovery and led him to his present focus of bringing his ballpoint pen visions to life. Check his story out below.


Say hello to Ronn: 

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Where are you from?  Where have you been?
My life has been quite a journey. I am originally from the south of The Netherlands. It’s where I was born and grew up. I studied Graphics and Illustration in Antwerp, Belgium. When I finished my studies, I moved to Rotterdam to get my BA in Graphic Design at the Willem de Kooning Academy. After I graduated, I worked there as a graphic designer for a few months, but because I needed something more, I decided to move to London. I love(d) London, but after two years, I decided it was time for a change and moved to São Paulo, Brazil. São Paulo gave me a great mixture of all Latin American countries. After three years in São Paulo, I moved to the more relaxed northeast of Brazil, to Recife. I lived there for six months before I moved back to Europe, to Lisbon, Portugal this time. Portugal showed me a lot of culture, old and new, but after three and a half years there, I moved back to Recife, where I still live and work now.


What’s your favorite place in the world?

My favorite place in the world is London. When we grow up, the people around us create this image about us in their heads. I tried to live up to people’s expectations up to the moment when I decided to move to London. Nobody knew me there, and I could just be me. It was like discovering who I was, with no holding back. It was the most amazing experience.


What is your dream project?

To create a piece which will impact people’s thoughts for generations to come. I am drawing animals at the moment with human accessories. The characters are quite funny, but I hope they make people think as well about the fact that animals, like us, are beings. Hopefully it will help people to respect animals a little more.


Tell us about the time your work was being featured for the first time in a gallery exhibit.

Last year, I had my first solo-exhibition here, in Recife, Brazil. I went to the gallery after I had done some experimental ink painting, with the question if they might perhaps be interested in selling them. They loved them, and asked to see earlier artwork. Happily surprised, I was then offered a solo-exhibition right away. Of course I said yes. The show was a success and made me decide to focus full-time on my artwork. Before the exhibition, I would still take on freelance graphic design jobs every now and then.


How do you find your inspiration?

I don’t look for it. It happens. It’s everywhere. Usually while working on one piece, I already start thinking about what I would like to do next. Sometimes, I want to change things a little. This is how a series is born. But sometimes, I just need a radical change. This happened after the solo-exhibition for which I created a lot of small oil-paintings. I wanted a different technique, and switched to ballpoint pen drawing.


Do you get inspiration blocks? If so, how do you overcome them?

I don’t. Never. I never understand people who say that they do. Just start. Bad decisions will at least show you what you don’t want, but will, very likely, make you realise about what you do want to create.


What is your background?

I studied Graphics and Illustration at SiSA in Antwerp, Belgium. After this, I got my BA as a Graphic Designer at the Willem de Kooing Academy in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. That is the official background. Fact is that I have always drawn and painted. As a child, my school had an annual coloring-drawing competition with a rubik’s cube as it’s prize. Very immodest, I have to say that I left that school with quite a few of those. It was just something that I did. I wanted to study fine art at the Willem de Kooing Academy, but my parents thought I should get a “real job” after I graduated and sort of pushed me into Graphic Design. Of course this didn’t stop me from experimenting with paint and other techniques during, and beside, my studies. After my studies, I mainly worked as a freelance Graphic Designer, while drawing and painting on the side. It was only last year, in 2015, that I decided that it was time to focus 100% on my work as an artist.


What mediums do you work with most frequently?

I mainly create ballpoint pen drawings on paper now. I started with ballpoint pen drawing because I thought it would be much faster to create a piece than with oil-painting, but my love for detail showed me rather quickly that that wouldn’t necessarily be the case. One of my favorite drawings is the one I made of Australian actor-singer, Hugh Sheridan. Hugh had found my work on Instagram and really liked some of my pieces. We started communicating and it led to this portrait I made of him, based on a photo (by Bobby J) he sent me.

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Through Hugh, I got in touch with actor-singer, Rafael de la Fuente, from the US hit series, Empire. From him, I then made the following ballpoint pen portrait (based on a photo by Joseph L. Silva).

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Out of your works, which three are you most proud of?

That’s a difficult question. It’s like having to choose a favorite child. Still, I hold some pieces closer to my heart than others for different reasons.

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The portrait I made of Troye Sivan. It is a very small portrait, in which I experimented with colours. And I was able to put enough detail and sentiment that you can almost feel Troye’s expression in the drawing.

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The second has to be one of my later drawings, “Don’t Pussy Me,” which allowed me to start playing with mixing up animals with human accessories-elements. 

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Actor-singer, Rafael de la Fuente, showed off his t-shirt with the print of “Don’t Pussy Me” later on. I felt really honoured when I saw that picture.

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The third piece would have to be my last drawing, “Pantherasta,” which got more detail than any other ballpoint pen drawing I made before. Drawing those dreads was crazy, but I am very happy with the way they turned out.

What impact do you hope your work leaves on society?

To make people think. That is the first thing that comes to mind. I would like for people to respect each other, animals, and nature, but you can’t have it all. If a drawing such as “Don’t Pussy Me” puts a smile on someone’s face for even a second, then that’s a positive impact made I will be happy with.


What was the most memorable response to your work?

Rafael de la Fuente wearing a t-shirt with my “Don’t Pussy Me” ballpoint pen drawing. No doubt.


What themes do you explore in your work?

At the moment, the mixture of animals with human accessories and/or elements, but it always changes. I don’t stick to something because the public likes it or not. As an artist, you need to change to develop your work in order to grow. So, I would like to answer that question with: “All of them!”


Professionally, where do you hope to see yourself in five years?

In five years time, I would like to be living in a nice apartment in London. As I do now, I would like to work from home, but I would like my studio to be quite a bit bigger than the very small one I work in now. I would like to work independently, with an interesting freelance job on the side every now and then.


What do you look for in figure models? 

Expression. Eyes are very important. There has to be something in those eyes of that person or that animal to which I can relate.


How difficult is it to find figure models?

Models are easy to find. Models to which your public responds well is a completely different story. You can never know to which the audience responds well or not, so I just have to go with models who have that something extra for me.


What challenges do you face in your work currently?

I recently started selling my ballpoint pen drawings as prints through sites as Society6, TeePublic, and Redbubble. I think my main challenge at the moment is for the bigger public to know these prints are now available at these sites.


What is your most life-changing event?

For me, it was moving to London. I have always been a dreamer, but ever since I moved to London, I started following them.


What’s something no one knows about you that you’d like to share?

I am a really open person. If I would like people to know something about me, I will just say it.


What’s one of your biggest fears?

Losing loved ones. That was actually the theme of my solo-exhibition last year – “The fear of losing and missing the people that I love.” I named the exhibition: “Till Death Do Us Part.”


What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t?

To tell the world that 99% of all performance art out there are just some untalented people looking for attention.


For anyone that wants to get in touch with Ronn, here’s some contact information:

FStop: Profile

Facebook: Profile

Instagram: @ronn.kools.artist

Tumblr: Page


Ronn, thank you so much for taking the time to interview with us!

If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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