Lennie Mace

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Lennie Mace
Ballpoint pen artist Lennie Mace, October 2012, San Francisco.jpg
Arriving at his PEN PAL exhibition, 2012
Born 1965 (age 49–50)
New York, NY
Nationality American
Education Self-taught
Known for Fine art, illustration, design
Movement Ballpoint pen artwork; PENting, Media Graffiti
Awards Scholastic Art Achievement Award, USA; SPC Graphic Design International Grand Prix, Japan

Lennie Mace (レニー・メイス Renī Meisu, born 1965?) is an American contemporary artist, born in New York City. Mace is predominantly known for his drawings in ballpoint pen, using them to create fine artwork, and he is considered a pioneer of the medium. His imagination has also served commercial purposes, appearing in print as illustrations and comic art. Art reviewers have referred to Mace as the da Vinci of doodlers and the ballpoint Picasso.

Lennie Mace has resided in Japan since 1994. A hair salon in central Tokyo, belonging to a Japanese patron, doubles as the Lennie Mace VIEWseum, displaying a collection of original artwork housed within an interior hand-crafted by the artist.[1] He remains active in art communities of both America and Japan.

Inherent artistic ability[edit]

According to Mace, himself, he has been drawing since before he could write his own name.[2] He asserts that "boredom doesn’t exist" for him; drawing is his "way of having fun when there’s no other fun to be had."[3] An overactive imagination also helps keep him occupied; "inspiration comes from the least likely sources at the least likely times" and, if new ideas subsided, he has "enough of a backlog to last several lifetimes."[4] As a teenager, he was the Gold Key winner of a Scholastic Art Achievement Award.[2][5] Mace also passed the entry exam for New York’s High School of Art and Design but did not attend.[4] He attended New York School of Visual Arts in 1985.[6]

Usage of ballpoint pen[edit]

Lennie Mace offers much insight into his usage of ballpoint pens as art medium. Sheer ubiquity seems to be the root, essentially determining his artistic bearing as a youngster. Growing up in a working-class family, the most readily available art supplies were ballpoint pens.[3] A convenient supply of the pens was enough to fuel Mace's creative instincts, allowing him to draw as he pleases whenever inspiration strikes.[7]

Artistic applications of ballpoint pen may be perceived as limiting, but Mace points out that plenty of colors are available, and he can apply his inks to a variety of surfaces such as wood,[8] denim,[9] leather[7] — even directly to skin as temporary tattoos.[10][11] Reviewers have commented on the surprising range of colors and tones which Lennie Mace achieves via ballpoint pen.[4] Although audiences unfamiliar with Mace’s artwork may be puzzled as to what medium was used to create them, closer inspection reveals fine crosshatching. But the artist also points out areas where, even under closer scrutiny, the lines disappear, creating an illusion of continuous tone which he refers to as the "wow factor."[3]

On the other hand, precision line-work itself serves another interest of the artist: ballpoints allow for sharp lines not as effectively executed using a brush. Mace credits the technical skills evident in the sometime-mechanical quality of his artwork specifically to his long-term drawing in ballpoint pen, honing "mind-to-eye-to-hand" coordination. In fact, one challenge which he considers an attraction to the medium may be the one thing which keeps other artists away: its irreversibility.[1] Lennie Mace likens it to "walking a tightrope without a net," noting that once a line is drawn it can’t be undone. For this reason, he says, the drawing is initiated in his head before the pen even touches the paper.

Lennie Mace ballpoint "PENting," Uchuu Neko Parade (2005) ballpoint pen and hardware on paper, 130 x 92cm.

Art career[edit]


Lennie Mace’s first professional art-related work began appearing in New York City during the mid-1980s, from which time he gained a degree of recognition as an illustrator. His artwork would go on to decorate the pages of a diverse range of publications, from High Times magazine to The New York Times newspaper.[12][13][14] Imagery depicted in his artwork touches upon aspects of so-called high-brow and low-brow aesthetics, even during the early 1990s when there was a greater divide between both art worlds. From the start of his professional career, his illustrations and artwork have been rendered solely using ballpoint pens, whether as simple black line drawings or using a full range of available ballpoint pen colors.

His earliest illustration credits appear in High Times magazine in 1987. Notable contributions to the magazine include two cover illustrations; the first published in the November 1988 issue, and another published in 1992.[15] Both dealt with the subject of growing marijuana in outer space. The choice of Mace's artwork for use on the cover of the magazine was a point of contention among the editorial staff at the time — a democratic process outlined in a 1992 High Times Greatest Hits anthology — and incited hate-mail from the magazine's readership. Mace's Pot on the Moon illustration was chosen over High Times' characteristic marijuana photography, a nude photograph of Allen Ginsberg and other designs.[16]

During the same period of the late 1980s, Mace’s illustrations and graphics frequently appeared in Screw magazine, a sex-related weekly tabloid published by Al Goldstein. Contributions of a sexual nature to Screw in New York City and Hustler magazine nationally in the early 1990s[17] gave Mace a reputation as an erotic artist which was furthered via inclusion in erotic art anthologies such as Ars Erotica: The Best Modern Erotic Art.[18]

Lennie Mace was among a circle of artists who were credited contributors to somewhat fringe New York-based entities providing work and exposure to emerging talent. Many such artists were also supporters of the listener-sponsored, free-form radio station WFMU, supplying artwork for the station’s promotion and fund-raising drives.[19] Mace became a prominent contributor to New York Press, a free alternative weekly, during the newspaper’s peak years.[20] He continued his involvement at New York Press even while he’d already based himself in Japan in the mid 1990s, and his work for the publication during that time often covered Asian topics, or displayed Asian influence.[14][21][22]

Sequential art[edit]

Years of work as an illustrator continued into other commercial outlets, most notably as a cartoonist. In the mid 90s Mace was also a contributor to Paradox Press’ (a DC Comic imprint) award-winning Big Book series.[14][23] He supplied artwork for many of the Big Books, but earned special recognition for his input to the Conspiracies book as well as the Urban Legends book.[20] Mad magazine, another Time Warner publication, also employed Mace as a cartoonist.[24]


The first solo exhibitions of Lennie Mace’s ballpoint artwork coincide with the beginning of the 1990s. His first exhibitions were held annually at the I AM THE BEST ARTIST gallery of René Moncada in New York's SoHo art district. In his early exhibitions, many originals of his illustration work were displayed alongside new artworks of his own, which added to the initial attraction of fans who’d appreciated the work in print. This also guaranteed attention from local press, many of whom were also employing and encouraging his talents. As his own original artwork flourished, illustrations were exhibited less.[20][22]

From the start, Mace chose clever exhibition titles such as Penmanship (1991)[25] and INKorporated (1993);[26] conspicuous wordplay relating to his preferred medium of ballpoint pen. Recent exhibition titles such as "Play Pen" (Tokyo, 2011) and "Pen Pal" (USA, 2012) continue the tradition.[7][8][9][27] Noted art writer Carlo McCormick dubbed Mace the da Vinci of doodlers in a preview of an early exhibition.[28]

Lennie Mace, Mona a'la Mace (1993) ballpoint pen on paper


In 1993, Lennie Mace attracted the interest of Pilot pen company president Ron Shaw, who then commissioned Lennie to draw a replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa using only Pilot ballpoint pens.[1][10] New York's Daily News reported the "high five-figure" price tag.[29] Mona a’la Mace was subsequently the highlight of Lennie Mace’s Macedonia exhibition in November 1993, and Mace was the subject of a feature interview by Morry Alter on CBS Evening News that month. Mr. Alter gave special notice to the term "PENtings,"[30] coined by the artist in reference to the sometime painterly quality of his more ambitious artwork in ballpoint pen, i.e. Mona a’la Mace.[1][13] Video showing Mace drawing was also broadcast; a drawing of a dog later titled CBS Dog displayed at his INKorporated exhibition.[14] The reporter also made an on-air point of joking about Mace’s predilection for wearing shoes of mismatched color. Mona a’la Mace was displayed in the lobby of Pilots’ offices for a time, and may have been used for corporate publicity, but the artwork’s current location and usage are unconfirmed. Lennie Mace is still said to wear mis-colored footwear.

Media Graffiti series[edit]

Lennie Mace’s Media Graffiti series has its origins within the emergence of graffiti culture of the 1980s in New York City, of which Mace was a participant. The series’ title refers to the artist’s practice of embellishing existing printed matter with his ballpoint doodles, sometimes in the form of ironic commentary to what is already implied within the advertisement.[31] He considers the series his artistic “shorthand.”[32] Mace began officially publicizing these works as Media Graffiti as output grew to dominate his exhibitions throughout the 1990s. He also refers to the series as "Ad Libs,"[1] an acronym of "ADvertisement LIBeration" adapted by Mace as a pun of "ad lib," to which he has compared his creative process — improvisational and spontaneous creation — a process with unpredictable results in which the art effectively "draws itself," from an instinctive visual library.[4] Exhibitions in 1996 titled "Media Graffiti" in both New York and Tokyo were composed entirely of artwork from the series.[28]

One 1996 Media Graffiti titled Thank You Calvin, Thank You Kate garnered media attention at the time of its exhibition for Lennie Mace's playful "manipulation."[33] The title refers to fashion designer Calvin Klein and model Kate Moss. The target of the artist's embellishment, in this case, was a risqué magazine ad for Calvin Klein's Obsession perfume. The black and white ad showed a nude Kate Moss from her waist up with one hand raised to her mouth coyly and one bear breast visible. A pocket-sized figure added by Mace in pink ink clings to Kate's arm, fixated and reaching for her nipple — also subtly highlighted in pink — as a baby's pacifier falls from his mouth, agape. The image, as presupposed by the media, implies that Mace's figure prefers the real nipple over its plastic imitation, and the title implying the artist's gratitude for being provided such ripe source material.[10][34]

Mace's flair for imbuing his Media Graffiti with "sexual and cultural double entendres"[28] was again publicized during his 365DAZE project in 1998. Juxtapoz art magazine's sister publication Erotica published a set of the series' "dirty pictures" featuring another Calvin Klein ad "liberated" as the issue's centerfold pin-up spread. Onto a black and white underwear ad showing a woman being handled by a man from behind, Mace adds a few extra hands, including one cutting through her blouse with scissors, and the annotation "Her Wish? His? Mine? Yours?"[33]

A Spanish magazine in 1998 featured Mace in an interview titled El Picasso Del Boligrafo (The Ballpoint Picasso), presenting his Media Graffiti and 365DAZE project. Mace's artwork appeared on the cover and throughout the magazine. The article noted the artist's vivid imagination.[35] As recognition of his Media Graffiti broadened, corporate interests began offering finer printings of their own products for Mace to embellish, to then be used for promotional purposes.[36] Media Graffiti continue to be a substantial component within the artist’s body of work.[37] Magazine page doodles have evolved over time to now include larger printed media such as Japanese subway posters.[9]

Lennie Mace, pictured with Lady Killer/Bull Market work-in-progress (ballpoint pen on newspaper, Media Graffiti Series) New York, 1998.


The profusion of Mace’s Media Graffiti culminated with his “365DAZE” project. For this project the artist spent the full year of 1998 driving around the United States, over 30,000 miles(48,280 km) by his own account,[38] doing a drawing-per-day, embellishing whatever found-media he came across in whatever part of the country through which he happened to be traveling.[31][38][39] He then spent 1999 touring with selections of completed artwork, beginning with New York City in January, followed by San Francisco in April,[31][32] and Los Angeles thereafter. Media Graffiti from Lennie Mace’s 365DAZE project has also been exhibited in other cities as part of group exhibitions in Chicago, Detroit, Tampa[40] and Miami,[41] and a number are on permanent display at the Lennie Mace VIEWseum in Tokyo.[1]


Lennie Mace’s connection with Japan began with a corporate commission in Tokyo in 1993.[26] The artist has since kept some presence in Tokyo with regular exhibitions and collaborations. He gained initial notoriety in Tokyo nightclubs, applying ballpoint drawings onto customers’ clothing and flesh for free drinks (pictured), which led to legitimate work, including temporary tattoos for music videos, film clients, and fashion events.[10][42][43] Illustration work helped introduce Mace to the international community in Tokyo.[10] Portraiture also became a standard element of the artist's output during his time in Japan. Mace renders people and pets in ballpoint pen by commission.[4][5]

Exhibitions in Japan include regular showings at Isetan Department Store. Most have occurred in the flagship Shinjuku store in Tokyo, but exhibitions have as well been held at other branches around Japan.[10][44]

Lennie Mace became the de facto house-artist for the Febbraio Di Ales cosmetics company, whose president is a principal patron in Japan. Work for Ales included most of that which Mace had become recognized — illustration, logo and font design, decorative fine art, et’al — and added architectural and interior design to his credits.[1] Three mannequin-like creations with elaborately fabricated hairstyles, all commissioned by Ales, were entered into a national design competition in 2004. One of them, a cyber-punk rendition very different from Mace's 2D artwork, went on to win the Grand Prize.[5][45]

The Lennie Mace VIEWseum Tokyo[edit]

Many of Mace’s most substantial projects in Japan were commissioned by Ales, involving full interior designs[46] and occasionally exterior architectural design as well.[47] The first began as simple interior modifications to the company's Ales International salon in Harajuku, to accommodate Lennie Mace artwork bought by the owner.[48] Customer satisfaction and enthusiasm led to the expansion of the commission to include the full interior,[49] to provide more display space — work which would go on for nearly two years between 2000 and 2002, even as the salon remained open for business.[1] The salon's entry walls received special attention; a ballpoint pen mural and mixed-media installation which was widely reported by both hair-make publications and general media outlets.[1][50]

The official re-christening of the salon as the Lennie Mace VIEWseum occurred on February 2, 2002.[3] The company’s promotional materials describe it as an ongoing, full-interior, mixed-media, enviro-installation, with a collection of the artist’s ballpoint pen originals sharing the space with site specific installations incorporating imaginative arrangements of his patron's other otaku collections.[1]

Another mammoth Ales commission was a full interior mural done in paint for the company's Sugar salon — a rare occasion of Mace creating figurative imagery using a medium other than ballpoint pen, at a scale he'd never before attempted.[51] These commissions included signage, promotional artwork, and anything else per Mace's whim which would serve the client's fancy. These sometimes included the design of furnishings such as chairs and tables, and often the actual hand-manufacturing of details such as clocks,[52] to match the overall designs.

Lennie Mace ballpoint pen temporary tattoo, Tokyo (2006).


Lennie Mace has been noted for his attention to detail; "intricately rendered" drawings showing "precision linework."[1][28] He explains his ballpoint technique as "layers of overlapping lines" dependent of "pressure on the pen and texture of the paper," working with several colors simultaneously to achieve desired effects.[30]

Mace has described his own work as "non-political" and "self-indulgent,"[13] but content of a surreal nature — animal legs substituted by elaborately "carved" piano legs, for example — has led some reviewers to read symbolism into his work.[9][53] Size varies greatly, from elaborate large-scale to simpler, smaller works.[8]

Mace has often incorporated materials reflecting the same "proletarian" origins of his ballpoint pens;[54] office supplies and stationery such as Loose leaf paper, corporate letterheads or memo pads, and post-it notes have all been utilized.[10][53] This, he has explained, is in line with the "doodle"-like aspects commonly associated with these materials.[10]

Wood and denim also figure largely in recent artwork.[8] Mace's denim "scrolls" have also been appearing in greater quantities since the beginning of the 2010s. The ballpoint-on-denim creations, a contemporary interpretation of traditional Japanese sumi ink on washi paper scrolls, are fabricated from the artist's own used jeans.[9][37]

Woven tapestries from Japan bearing Lennie Mace's imagery started making appearances in American galleries in 2012.[8][9][37]

Media reception[edit]

New York Press supported Lennie Mace's early exhibitions by promoting his "superfine, surrealistic, and elegant" ballpoint artwork.[14][22] Writer and performer David Aaron Clark, a fellow Screw magazine alumni and sometime collaborator, also promoted Mace's early exhibitions in previews describing "giddy, sleek masterpieces of fantasy and sensuality."[54] Lennie Mace has professed to a "something for everyone" approach to filling exhibitions with whatever artwork is available at the time,[2] including random sketch work, which has spurred criticism. The same critics, however, favored him as "a draftsman of almost infinite talent."[53] He has also been called a master of ballpoint pen artwork, and his 2012 "Pen Pal" exhibition in San Francisco was championed as "technically exceptional and conceptually intriguing."[9] Hi Fructose art magazine commended the "intricate worlds" rendered by Mace in a review of the same exhibition.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Lennie Mace speaks Japanese fluently. To some extent, he is also able to read the language, and uses combinations of kanji, kana, and rōmaji to write in Japanese.[55]

Juxtapoz art magazine reported Mace's 1997 deportation from Japan, although specific reasons were not provided. Unexpectedly back in America the artist set out on the road, which became the basis for his "365DAZE" project of 1998.[32]

During his years as a contributor to High Times magazine in the 1980s, articles about Lennie Mace's artwork also note a "penchant for mobility"; first living for an unspecified period in a school bus and, at a later time, in a customized handicap transport.[13] The latter of these was among vehicles alluded to in the magazine, reporting the travels of staff to out-of-town functions.[16] Cross-country driving during his 1998-99 365DAZE project was reported around the United States, though these trips were made by car and Mace stayed in motels, with friends, and occasionally camped.[31][32][39]


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  3. ^ a b c d e C.B. Liddell (2002). "getting the ball rolling in harajuku". Tokyo Journal (Tokyo, Japan: Nexxus Communications). 21, Number 241 (Winter '01/02; page 36–37). ISSN 0289-811X. OCLC 13995159. Retrieved May 2012. 
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  5. ^ a b c "Web gallery". Portrait commissions. Kayjam Co. Ltd. March 2013. Retrieved April 2013. 
  6. ^ Mace (1985). "Modern Love or: Static In The Air, page 20". "Will Eisner's Gallery of Comic Art" (New York, USA: School of Visual Arts) (#12). 
  7. ^ a b c Takahiko Honda (2011). "New York’s Playful Ballpoint Picasso". 「月刊ギャラリー」(Gekkan Gallery Guide) (Tokyo, Japan: Gallery Station Co., Ltd.). 2011 Vol. 4 (April, 2011; page 27). Retrieved May 2012. 
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  12. ^ "California Zephyr illustration". The New York Times (Manhattan, New York, USA: Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.). April 10, 1994. p. Letters page; Book Review (A.D. Steve Heller). ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522. 
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  17. ^ full-gatefold illustrations (1993). ""Sex Addiction" & "Lap Dancing" illustrations". Hustler (magazine) (Los Angeles, CA (USA): Flynt Publications). 19 No. 10; Vol. 20 No. 4 (Mar. 1993; Oct. 1993). 
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  19. ^ The Best of LCD: the art and writing of WFMU. New York, NY, USA: Princeton Architectural Press. 2008. pp. 8, 36, 37, 51, 124. ISBN 978-1-56898-715-6. OCLC 86037987. Retrieved May 2012.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  20. ^ a b c Cavanaugh, Tim (May 1994). "Art Pick, exhibition: Old New Borrowed Blue; "Urban Legends" art". Manhattan Spirit (Manhattan, New York, USA). p. 28. OCLC 25848415. 
  21. ^ Comic of the Week; New York Press, week of Dec.28,’94-Jan.3,’95, p.35
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  24. ^ Mike Snider (1998). "Mad Examines the High Costs of Education". MAD (New York, NY, USA: Time Warner) #369 (May, 1998). ISSN 0024-9319. OCLC 244204452. Retrieved May 2012. 
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  26. ^ a b Strausbaugh, John (November 1994). "Weekly Calendar page: "INKorporated" exhibition preview.". New York Press 7 (47) (Manhattan, New York, USA: Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.). ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522. 
  27. ^ Satou, Nobuo (October 2011). "Gallery Yoyogi, Archives, 2011". PLAY PEN 2 exhibition listing. gallery-st.net , Gallery Yoyogi. Retrieved May 2012. 
  28. ^ a b c d Carlo McCormick (compiled by Christine Muhlke) (1996). "Quick Draw; Davinci of Doodlers". Paper magazine (New York, NY, USA: Paper Publishing Company) (May, 1996). 
  29. ^ Benza, A.J. (October 22, 1993). "Hard Copy: "High five-figure commission"". Daily News (New York, NY). 
  30. ^ a b CBS Evening News |"Macedonia" exhibition preview (F.D.R. gallery, NYC), Lennie Mace interview |segment producer Morry Alter, November 10, 1993
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  34. ^ staff writer (1996). "Media Graffiti". Time Out New York magazine (New York, NY, USA). No. 35 (May 22–29, 1996). 
  35. ^ Medico Interamericano; http://www.icps.org/Default.aspx?tabid=2510; Vol.18 No.7, 1999; Cover art & pgs. 352~
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  41. ^ Marthell, Vivian (April 18, 2002). "Lust for Erotic Life". Media Graffiti/365DAZE artwork in group exhib. miaminewtimes.com. Retrieved May 2012. 
  42. ^ "Mace drawing on model for event". blog. 2005. Retrieved May 24, 2012.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  43. ^ dice-k (2005). "pages 60-61". Tattoo Tribal magazine (Tokyo, Japan) 18 (April, 2005). 
  44. ^ Matsui, Tsunematsu (2006). "exhibition at Isetan department store". Isetan exhibition card, front/back shown. Retrieved May 2012. 
  45. ^ staff writer (2005). "page 56". New Hair magazine (Tokyo, Japan). No.548 (April, 2005). 
  46. ^ "Febbraio Di Ales salon index". photos of full-interior designs by Lennie Mace. Febbraio Di Ales. 2006~. Retrieved June 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  47. ^ "Section Ex hair salon Motomachi(Yokohama)". photos of exterior/architecture/signage designed by Lennie Mace. Sprasia Inc. 2006~. Retrieved June 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  48. ^ staff writer (2001). "(tezukuri interior salons)". Boy's Popolo magazine (Tokyo, Japan). No.548 (Summer, 2001). 
  49. ^ "Febbraio Di Ales salon index". photos of full-interior installation by Lennie Mace. Febbraio Di Ales. 2002~. Retrieved June 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  50. ^ staff writer (2002). "tezukuri interior salons". Choki Choki magazine (Tokyo, Japan) (April, 2002). Retrieved Sep 2013. 
  51. ^ "Febbraio Di Ales salon index". photos of full-interior painted murals by Lennie Mace. Febbraio Di Ales. 2007~. Retrieved June 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  52. ^ "Febbraio Di Ales salon index". photos of full-interior designs by Lennie Mace. Febbraio Di Ales. 2007~. Retrieved June 1, 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  53. ^ a b c Cavanaugh, Tom (November 4, 1993). "Macedonia". Manhattan Spirit (New York, NY). 
  54. ^ a b Clark, David Aaron (November 6–12, 1991). "LISTINGS page". New York Press (New York, NY). 
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External links[edit]