Beautiful Portraits Drawn on Vintage Maps With Brilliant Crosshatching Technique

@edfairburn #crosshatching a private commission in ink over a unique atlas #map of Paris … #inkdrawing #drawing #portraitart #mapartist #mapart #maps #penandink #artwork #artist #crosshatchingart ♬ Comptine d'un autre été, l'après-midi – Yann Tiersen

What does it mean to bring a city to life? This is the question that artist Ed Fairburn explores in his work. Through his carefully crosshatched human portraits drawn on top of sprawling maps, Fairburn's art encourages people to consider the complex relationship between how they are shaped by the places they call home.

The UK-based artist starts any creative endeavor by finding the perfect old map to repurpose. The focus of these maps can be topographic, roads, or cities—Fairburn utilizes all of them in his work. Rather than fighting against his canvas, he uses it to his advantage, allowing the predetermined lines and markings to help bring shape to his portraits. Though some of his work has him drawing over the map's features, his most visually arresting work are arguably the ones that allow the streets and waterways to determine his composition. His human figures hug the curves of the winding roads and rivers, using them as a guide for their positions or the angle of his subject's face.

Fairburn also uses roadways and other pathways on the map as borders to carefully fill the empty space within with hatches and crosshatches. Depending on how densely he packs his etchings, he's able to mimic light, shadow, and texture to his portraits. Topographic shapes become the shadow of someone's nose, a highway becomes a brow line, and a body of water separates the face from its surroundings, making it stand out in the vast blueness. Up-close it may just seem like an abstract, repetitive set of lines, but take a step back and you'll be wowed by his artistry.

As for the canvases themselves, Fairburn uses maps from all over the globe, including locations in the United States, Canada, and Europe. He tends to stay close to home, though, as much of his work focuses on locations around England and Scotland, including iconic landmarks. His unique art style has also caught the attention of entertainment producers, and Fairburn has been commissioned to create specialty movie posters for a variety of film and television productions, including the Indiana Jones and John Wick franchises.

To keep up with the artist's latest work, you can follow Fairburn on Instagram. If you are interested in owning one of his map portraits for yourself, you can check out the artist's online store.

UK-based artist Ed Fairburn is known for using maps as canvases for hand-drawn portraits.

@edfairburn “Do you see faces in maps?” THANK YOU all for the love on my last upload! I'm blown away. I'm new to tiktok but will be sharing more here. You can see my older work via the links in my bio. Audio is from geomob podcast episode 90. #drawing #map #artist #artwork #penandink #art #crosshatching #ink ♬ Glass – Hania Rani

@edfairburn I rarely work on just one map at a time, from start to finish… I like to rotate things in the studio and have several drawings on the go. This week I've been chipping away at a giant map of Stockport, as well as progressing a 19th century map of Washington DC. #contemporaryartist #contemporaryart #crosshatchingart #crosshatching #penandink #fyp #drawing #art #map #maps #inkdrawing ♬ Idea 22 (Slowed + Reverb) – Gibran Alcocer

By allowing himself to be inspired by the curves and shapes on the maps, Fairburn masterfully uses space to illustrate soulful faces.

@edfairburn ✨ Brooklyn, NY ✨ crosshatched in ink over an original 1896 atlas page. The blocky layout of Brooklyn couldn't be more different to the spaghetti-on-a-plate of European cities, and as with lots of other US locations it's a welcome challenge for my process. I'm excited to announce that I'll be releasing this brand new map later this week as a limited edition print! It'll be limited not just in quantity, but also time, as the print will only be available for a few days. Once it's gone, it's gone forever. The run goes live this Thursday, 28th March, unless of course you're on my mailing list… in which case you'll receive an early access link 24 hours before the drop! This will allow you to bag the earliest edition numbers in the size of your choice. During my last time-limited print drop the largest print size sold out before general release, so it's definitely worth signing up for early access. You can find the sign-up link on my website, linked here in my profile on TikTok. #contemporaryartist #contemporaryart #portrait #crosshatchingart #crosshatching #penandink #fyp #drawing #art #map #maps #inkdrawing ♬ green to blue (Sped Up) – Aurenth

@edfairburn Crosshatching compilation – even more of the good stuff! I added an audio excerpt from a recent feature recorded for Turkish TV network TRT2 – this part of the conversation was mostly about my technical process, how and where I start each portrait, and why. #inkdrawing #portraitart #mapart #maps #drawing #artwork #artist #penandink #crosshatchingart #crosshatching #art #portraitartist ♬ original sound – Ed Fairburn

Fairburn uses a mixture of topographic, road, and city maps for his work; and often opts for a crosshatching technique to complete his work.

@edfairburn I've drawn lots of lines this year. Here's a few of my favourites, and here's to a few more next year thanks for being here #mapart #inkdrawing #maps #map #art #drawing #fyp #penandink #crosshatching #crosshatchingart #portrait #contemporaryart #contemporaryartist #mapartist ♬ Idea 15 – Gibran Alcocer

Portrait Of Woman Drawn Over City Map

Portrait Of Woman Drawn Over City Map

Portrait Of Woman Drawn Over City Map

Depending on his choice of map, his artwork ranges from simple black pen drawings to beautiful etchings highlighted by colored rivers and roads.

Portrait Of Woman Drawn Over City Map

Portrait Of Woman Drawn Over Topographic Map

Ed Fairburn: Website | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok

My Modern Met granted permission to feature images by Ed Fairburn.

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Sarah Currier

Sarah Currier is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. Based in central Iowa, she is currently enrolled at Iowa State University and is working toward a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in English. She loves all things creative, and when she’s not writing, you can find her immersed in the worlds of television, film, and literature.
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