Mark Powell is an English portrait artist who produces intricate and incredibly life-like drawings of faces using a Biro ball-point pen and old envelopes, playing cards, newspapers, vintage papers, and other antique documents as his canvases. He often incorporates the envelope’s stamps and postal marks into his drawings.
Facts About Mark Powell
- Mark Powell was born in Leeds, Yorkshire in 1980 and he studied Fine Art Drawing and Painting at Huddersfield University.
- In 2006, the year of his graduation, Mark was invested to show his work in a few venues around the US.
- Upon his return to the UK, he managed to secure some studio space in Leeds, but because he was short of money, he had to sleep on the studio’s concrete floor for a year.
- He moved to London, eventually settling in Brick Lane.
- He was initially a painter before he started to produce his Biro portraits.
- His work was featured on the Colossal magazine website. This exposure led to his work becoming popular, and he was able to become a full-time artist.
- He admires the work of the artists Jean Michel Basquiat, David Hockney, Samuel Bassett, Anthony Micallef, and Richard Hamilton.
- He has been drawing all of his life and he can’t remember a time when he didn’t draw.
- His first Biro drawing on vintage paper was a work featuring the face of an old man drawn on a letter envelope sent from the World War 1 trenches.
- Some of the documents he has used in his work date back to the 17th century.
- In his work titled American Toursit, Powell drew the face of a Native American over an old map of Manhatten Island.
- He often buys his vintage documents in Paris, Amsterdam and Stockholm.
- He constantly listens to music when he works. He enjoys folk-based music and weird acid drum and bass. He also likes the bands Radiohead, Bellows and Forest Swords.
- He owns several guitars but he doesn’t play any of them
- He enjoys reading Russian literature.
How does Mark Powell create his work of art?
He uses black Bic Biro ballpoint pens because they are simple and always ready to hand.
He avoids ink build-up at the pen tip, he frequently rolls them on a scrap piece of paper. He uses newer pens for lighter areas (their flow is slower), and older more well-used ones for darker areas (their flow is quicker).
He chooses vintage and antique documents for his canvases because he wants to save as much tangible history as he can in our increasingly digital lives.
Each antique document is different. Different papers take ink differently, so his technique changes slightly from work to work. Regardless of the paper he is using, he always works from light to dark with the pen.
He chooses the combination of the face to be drawn and the vintage paper to work on from a purely aesthetic standpoint. There is almost never an actual historical connection between the subject and the canvas, but they may be thematically linked.
He always works from photos of faces never from live sittings.
Each of his drawings takes on average between one and two days to complete. His larger works (often involving folded-out maps) can take up to a month to finish.