Mark Powell

Mark Powell is a British portrait artist from Yorkshire. Powell also draws animals and objects, but he is well known for his contemporary drawings of people made using biro pen. Powell’s biro drawings of people are often done onto antique documents such as maps and envelopes, giving a sense of history and timelessness to his artwork.

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Mark Powell Biro Portrait
Mark Powell Biro Map artwork

Mark Powell is a British artist, born in 1980. He is famous for his highly detailed and textured drawings which he creates using biro pens. He often adds layers of meaning to his artworks by drawing onto historical maps or found items such as envelopes from the war.

Mark Powell’s portrait drawings usually show the subject face forward, looking directly at the viewer. He often shows no background and focuses on just the face and shoulders. Why do you think this is? What effect does this give to the portraits?

Mark Powell portrait drawing biro pen

Top 10 Facts about artist Mark Powell:

  • Mark Powell was born in Yorkshire in 1980
  • He has drawn all of his life and doesn’t remember a time he didn’t draw
  • Powell attended Huddersfield University and studied Fine Art Drawing and Painting
  • One of his university tutors called him a ‘terrible artist’!
  • He is inspired by artists such as Jean Michel Basquiat, David Hockney, Samuel Bassett, Anthony Micallef and Richard Hamilton
  • He doesn’t like the artwork he produces and always tries to make the next piece better
  • Powell uses biro pen because it is the ‘most simple and readily available’
  • He is well known for drawing portraits but also draws animals and still life objects such as old typewriters and analogue cameras
  • Powell has exhibited his artwork around the world including in London and the USA
  • His advice for drawing is ‘keep working and work often otherwise you’ll never improve’

If you look at Mark Powell’s biro pen drawings carefully, you might notice that he tries to capture each and every wrinkle or detail he can. He uses pen in a highly skilled way that allows him to show a huge range of tones and shades. This dramatic use of light and dark allows him to exaggerate the textures in the faces he draws. Some parts of the skin almost look like water!

Using tone in such a way gives his portrait drawings a sense of realism, however, he also allows the background of his drawings to show through too. This suggests that what he draws onto is just as important as the subject he is drawing.

Which part of the background has Mark Powell left without any drawing on? Why do you think this is?

Biro pen artist Mark Powell

Mark Powell often chooses to draw older people’s portraits on to maps. The portraits are drawn in black biro pen, so the only colour comes from the maps revealed below. Using biro allows Powell to carefully control the amount of light and shade in his drawings, sometimes completely blocking out the background and sometimes letting it show through onto the faces. At times it looks as though the lines of the map could also be lines or wrinkles on the face, giving a ghostly or unnatural quality.

Biro Pen Portrait drawing Mark Powell art
Mark Powell biro artist close up
Mark Powell artwork pen portrait

Mark Powell is well known for drawing portraits, however he also draws still life objects such as vintage typewriters and analogue cameras. His artworks enable the viewer to create a narrative between the subject he has drawn and the background he draws onto. Using vintage maps or old letters from the war suggest a sense of history and mystery in his artwork.

Mark Powell Object Drawings:

Mark Powell Animal Drawings:

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What do you think of Mark Powell’s artwork? How could you describe it? What lives can you imagine for his subjects? Let me know in the comments!


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