Mark Powell (painter)

I was born in 1980 in Leeds, West Yorkshire. I now live in London. I frequently run into the sea. I draw with a bic biro black ballpoint pen onto original antique documents dating back to 1690.

London-based artist Mark Powell reuses old envelopes as canvases to produce incredible drawings. His sketches are made using only a Biro pen, and they often incorporate original stamps and postage marks. By recycling the envelopes, he is in some way preserving a bit of history and the tales behind the sender. He says this is why his work, which is primarily portraiture, focuses on older characters that appear to tell their own stories from the very creases and wrinkles of their faces. Powell’s portraits are amusing in the way they incorporate the lines and postage stamps of the envelopes into the wrinkles and shading of each distinct face. Each portrait becomes as much about the canvas as it is about the person depicted, adding another layer to examine....

Powell uses nothing but a simple Bic Biro ballpoint pen to create incredibly detailed portraits of the elderly. His chosen canvases are antique documents dating from 1763 onwards. His aim is to portray what can be produced with the most basic tool whilst creating a relationship between the canvas and image.

What initially triggered this idea of drawing on antique documents?
I was given an envelope that was sent from the WWI front line. Just before the soldier went over the trenches, he scribbled a note to his loved ones....almost a hundred years later I end up...

Why Bic biro?
It’s two things really. It’s just to show what you can actually do with the simplest things. It’s the most basic thing I could find. And it’s the challenge as well. If you make a mistake you destroy two things: the drawing and the document. I like that pressure to get it right.
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First Collected by

Jaak Mortelmans


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