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Self-taught artist makes hyperrealistic portraits with just a basic Bic ballpoint pen

Self-taught artist makes hyperrealistic portraits with just a basic Bic ballpoint pen

Maybe it's because I'm a writer, but I'm a bit of a pen snob. Even if I'm just making a list, I look for a pen that grips well, flows well, doesn't put too much or too little ink into the paper, is responsive-but-not-too-responsive to pressure, and doesn't suddenly stop working mid-stroke.

In other words, the average cheap ballpoint pen is out. (See? Snob.)

However, Oscar Ukono is making me reevaluate my pen snobbery. Because while I'm over here turning up my nose at the basic Bic, he's using them to create things like this:


Um, yeah.

Ukonu is a self-taught artist from Lagos, Nigeria, who creates hyperrealistic portraits using just a Bic ballpoint pen. And not the fancy kind—the super simple clear ones with the pointy lids you buy in a 12-pack because you know you're going to lose half of them around the house anyway.

His drawings look like blue-washed photographs, but they're all hand-drawn with a Bic. (Or more accurately, with around 10 Bics, since the nubs start to wear down as he uses them.) How he makes the most average ballpoint pen strokes do what he does seems like nothing short of magic—even when you watch him do it in real-time.

The techniques he uses are pretty standard—hatching (parallel lines), crosshatching (perpendicular lines), and scribbling (basically what it sounds like). But he uses them on a minutely detailed level, working from multiple photos of the same subject, and the result is portraiture that looks so real it's almost surreal.

Artist Draws Hyperrealistic Portraits Using Bic Ballpoint Pensyoutu.be

Ukonu began his journey with hyperrealism when he was in architecture school and fell in love with ballpoint after feeling unsatisfied with the ink pens he was using. "I spent a lot of time looking at different mediums and drawing tools," he told Vsionvry. "But the first time I tried the ballpoint pen that was in 2014, and it just clicked..."

According to his website, Ukonu "explores black identity and pride in an increasingly globalized world, as well as ideas surrounding Afrorealism" in his art. (Afrorealism is a movement that straddles optimism and pessimism about Africa, with a genuine acknowledgment of the difficulties facing the continent and the placement of Africans in the central role of its development.)

Ukonu calls his work "a practice in time and patience" with an average piece taking him somewhere between 200 to 400 hours to complete. That time and patience pays off as prints of his work—not the originals, just prints—can sell for up to $600.

That braid he's working on in the video? That was this. With a Bic ballpoint. How?


And the newspaper wrapped around the woman's head? He has a whole series of pieces that feature that concept, which he calls "THE DISINFORMATION OF A REPUBLIC."



If you're new to hyperrealistic art, it's similar to—and has its roots in—photorealism, a style in which someone draws exactly what they see in a photo. But instead of drawing a direct copy of a photograph, hyperreal artists use photos only as a reference. That's why the video explained that Ukonu used around 20 photographs (out of hundreds taken) to draw one of his pieces. Rather than an exact replica of a single photograph, the final product is a wholly unique image, even though it looks like it could be a photograph.

It's common for hyperrealists to evoke emotional, social, cultural, and political meanings in their works, which shows clearly in Ukonu's art. And the fact that he can create such beautiful images with a cheap, disposable Bic ballpoint is proof that the talent of the artist is more important than the quality of the tools. (A truth that I will keep in mind when I reach for a pen for any purpose after seeing this.)

You can find more of Ukono's work on Instagram and on his website.

via Pixabay

A sad-looking Labrador Retriever

The sweet-faced, loveable Labrador Retriever is no longer America’s favorite dog breed. The breed best known for having a heart of gold has been replaced by the smaller, more urban-friendly French Bulldog.

According to the American Kennel Club, for the past 31 years, the Labrador Retriever was America’s favorite dog, but it was eclipsed in 2022 by the Frenchie. The rankings are based on nearly 716,500 dogs newly registered in 2022, of which about 1 in 7 were Frenchies. Around 108,000 French Bulldogs were recorded in the U.S. in 2022, surpassing Labrador Retrievers by over 21,000.


The French Bulldog’s popularity has grown exponentially over the past decade. They were the #14 most popular breed in 2012, and since then, registrations have gone up 1,000%, bringing them to the top of the breed popularity rankings.

The AKC says that the American Hairless Terrier, Gordon Setter, Italian Greyhound and Anatolian Shepherd Dog also grew in popularity between 2021 and 2022.

The French Bulldog was famous among America’s upper class around the turn of the 20th century but then fell out of favor. Their resurgence is partly based on several celebrities who have gone public with their Frenchie love. Leonardo DiCaprio, Megan Thee Stallion, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Reese Witherspoon and Lady Gaga all own French Bulldogs.

The breed earned a lot of attention as show dogs last year when a Frenchie named Winston took second place at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and first in the National Dog Show.

The breed made national news in early 2021 when Gaga’s dog walker was shot in the chest while walking two of her Frenchies in a dog heist. He recovered from his injuries, and the dogs were later returned.

They’ve also become popular because of their unique look and personalities.

“They’re comical, friendly, loving little dogs,” French Bull Dog Club of America spokesperson Patty Sosa told the AP. She said they are city-friendly with modest grooming needs and “they offer a lot in a small package.”

They are also popular with people who live in apartments. According to the AKC, Frenchies don’t bark much and do not require a lot of outdoor exercise.

The French Bulldog stands out among other breeds because it looks like a miniature bulldog but has large, expressive bat-like ears that are its trademark feature. However, their popularity isn’t without controversy. “French bulldogs can be a polarizing topic,” veterinarian Dr. Carrie Stefaniak told the AP.

american kennel club, french bulldog, most popular dog

An adorable French Bulldog

via Pixabay

French Bulldogs have been bred to have abnormally large heads, which means that large litters usually need to be delivered by C-section, an expensive procedure that can be dangerous for the mother. They are also prone to multiple health problems, including skin, ear, and eye infections. Their flat face means they often suffer from respiratory problems and heat intolerance.

Frenchies are also more prone to spine deformations and nerve pain as they age.

Here are the AKC’s top ten most popular dog breeds for 2022.

1 French Bulldogs

2 Labrador Retrievers

3 Golden Retrievers

4 German Shepherd Dogs

5 Poodles

6 Bulldogs

7 Rottweilers

8 Beagles

9 Dachshunds

10 German Shorthaired Pointers


This article originally appeared on 03.17.23

Representative image from Canva

This Mother's Day, give mom what she really wants—a break.

Mother’s Day is upon us again. And for many, that means trying to pick the perfect gift that makes mom feel special. But what exactly is that gift? For many well-intentioned partners, the answer to this question feels elusive.

However, according to mom Madison Barbosa, all moms only really want one thing. And it’s not something you’ll find in a gift guide.

In a video posted to her TikTok, Barbosa jokingly points a figure at the camera while saying, Mother’s Day is coming. I’m looking at you. Yeah I’m looking at you…what are you gonna do for her? I’m gonna tell you what to do.”


According to Barbosa, moms aren't looking for a break away from their family. What she wants is a day where she can “turn her brain off. Where she doesn't have to have the mental load for one day. Take off the mental load for one day.”

What exactly does this look like? Barbosa breaks it down, step by step.

“Here's what you're gonna do. She's gonna wake up. You're not gonna say, ‘What do you want to do today? We can do anything you want.’ Nope, nope, no. You're gonna plan something. Whether that's going to the zoo, going to the park, going for a walk, you're gonna plan something that she does not have to think twice about. Not gonna ask her what she wants to eat. You're gonna plan that shit too. Don't ask her any questions.”

And in case there’s any confusion, packaging is most definitely part of this planning process. Including the diaper bag.

“When she goes to pack up the diaper bag, she gets ready, she gets packed the diaper bag. It's already packed. Do you understand? It's already packed. Exactly as she would do it. Exactly. You better, you better pack that diaper bag the night before. You wake up an hour before her, and you pack that diaper bag. Make sure all the shit's in there. All you need to do is let her shut her brain off,” she said.

Lastly, Barbosa says that in addition to the glorious day of brainlessness, moms do enjoy physical gifts like flowers and thoughtful cards, contrast to what some might say. Just make sure the message on the cards is “thoughtful.” And, as one viewer pointed out, make sure the flowers are arranged in a vase. Again, mental load.

Watch below. Warning: there are a few f-bombs thrown in for dramatic flair.

@madison_barbosa yall need me to send this to your husbands? no joke ill do it 🤟🏻 #mothersday #relatablemomcontent #momhumor #momminmads #unfilteredmom ♬ original sound - Madison Barbosa

Barbosa’s video, which quickly racked up over 115,000 views, left many moms nodding in agreement.

“I just want a cinnamon roll and not to be asked questions,” one chimed.

Another added, Sending this to my husband NOW!!! Bc this is EXACTLY what I want!”

Still, there wasn’t unanimous agreement on the “being with family” portion of Barbosa’s suggestions.

“Speak for yourself,” one mom wrote. “I would love a day by myself.”

This could have to do with what chapter of motherhood each woman is in. Upworthy previously learned that moms of younger children are the ones who typically want a solo day, while moms of adult children tend to crave the bonding time. And teen/tween moms just want to be appreciated.

Honestly, now matter what stage these mothers are in, is any of that too much to ask? We think not.

Island School Class, circa 1970s.

Parents, do you think your child would be able to survive if they were transported back to the '70s or '80s? Could they live at a time before the digital revolution put a huge chunk of our lives online?

These days, everyone has a phone in their pocket, but before then, if you were in public and needed to call someone, you used a pay phone. Can you remember the last time you stuck 50 cents into one and grabbed the grubby handset?

According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, roughly 100,000 pay phones remain in the U.S., down from 2 million in 1999.

Do you think a 10-year-old kid would have any idea how to use a payphone in 2022? Would they be able to use a Thomas Guide map to find out how to get somewhere? If they stepped into a time warp and wound up in 1975, could they throw a Led Zeppelin album on the record player at a party?


Another big difference between now and life in the '70s and '80s has been public attitudes toward smoking cigarettes. In 1965, 42.4% of Americans smoked and now, it’s just 12.5%. This sea change in public opinion about smoking means there are fewer places where smoking is deemed acceptable.

But in the early '80s, you could smoke on a bus, on a plane, in a movie theater, in restaurants, in the classroom and even in hospitals. How would a child of today react if their third grade teacher lit up a heater in the middle of math class?

Dan Wuori, senior director of early learning at the Hunt Institute, tweeted that his high school had a smoking area “for the kids.” He then asked his followers to share “something you experienced as a kid that would blow your children’s minds.”


A lot of folks responded with stories of how ubiquitous smoking was when they were in school. While others explained that life was perilous for a kid, whether it was the school playground equipment or questionable car seats.

Here are a few responses that’ll show today’s kids just how crazy life used to be in the '70s and '80s.

First of all, let’s talk about smoking.

Want to call someone? Need to get picked up from baseball practice? You can’t text mom or dad, you’ll have to grab a quarter and use a pay phone.

People had little regard for their kids’ safety or health.

You could buy a soda in school.

Things were a lot different before the internet.

Remember pen pals?

A lot of people bemoan the fact that the children of today aren’t as tough as they were a few decades back. But that’s probably because the parents of today are better attuned to their kids’ needs so they don't have to cheat death to make it through the day.

But just imagine how easy parenting would be if all you had to do was throw your kids a bag of Doritos and a Coke for lunch and you never worried about strapping them into a car seat?


This article originally appeared on 06.08.22

Representative Image from Canva

There's no way they didn't understand what she was saying.

Okay, so maybe dogs don’t understand everything we tell them exactly as a human would. But is that gonna stop us from having full blown conversations with them? Of course not. And the times they do seem to comprehend what’s being communicated—pure comedy.

Take this dog mom’s hilarious pre-grooming pep talk with Shih-Tzus Branston, Pickle and Gizmo. She minced no words telling them exactly how this trip was gonna go. And the message seemed to be received.

Branston (the troublemaker, apparently) got a firm warning of what not to do, including telling white lies about his upbringing.

“I don’t need you running in telling the first dog you see that this is what this is what your hair used to look like when you lived in the Bronx running up and down the block, cause I know for a fact, Branston, that you live in a rural village,” she tells him.

Viewers, however, seemed on board with Branston’s Bronx-affiliation, even if it was a little white lie. One person joked, “don’t be mad at the treats that I got, I’m still Branny from the block.”

In the video, Branston is also instructed to not tell everyone that he “identifies as a BUll Mastiff,” which gets the most adorable look of disappointment for wee little Branston.

As for Gizmo and Pickle—mom’s best advice is to pretend like they don’t know Branston.

Perhaps the best part is mom’s British accent, which makes the entire clip feel like something pulled straight outta “Ted Lasso.” That, or the complete shock the Shih-tzu trio has at being informed of their weight class.

Watch:

@branstonandpickle01 Your NOT from the Bronx and you never ran up and down the block!! #dogsoftiktok #peptalktoyourdog #branstonwehavearrived #shihtzusoftiktok #peptalkbranston #funnydogvideos #funnyvideos #nyc #bronx #funny #dogs #dogtok ♬ original sound - Branston,Pickle&Gizmo

Perhaps Branston, Pickle, and Gizmo’s mom isn’t totally off-base by giving them a talking to. According to the website allshihtzu.com, this breed had a “unique intelligence,” which gets best demonstrated by their attuned, empathic connection to their human families. Meaning that while they might not have the same kind of smarts as border collies or other herding dogs, their super power is picking up social cues.

And, again, even if they had no earthly idea what their mom was saying, odds are she’d still be talking to them anyway. Why? Because pets are our babies. And baby talk is fun.jk

What is Depression?

In the United States, close to 10% of the population has depression, but sometimes it can take a long time for someone to even understand that they have it.

One difficulty in diagnosis is trying to distinguish between feeling down and experiencing clinical depression. This TED-Ed video from December 2015 can help make the distinction. With simple animation, the video explains how clinical depression lasts longer than two weeks with a range of symptoms that can include changes in appetite, poor concentration, restlessness, sleep disorders (either too much or too little), and suicidal ideation. The video briefly discusses the neuroscience behind the illness, outlines treatments, and offers advice on how you can help a friend or loved one who may have depression.


Unlike the many pharmaceutical ads out there with their cute mascots and vague symptoms, the video uses animation to provide clarity about the mental disorder. It's similar in its poignant simplicity to the HBO short documentary "My Depression," based on Liz Swados' book of the same name.


This article originally appeared on 08.17.19