Incredible Ballpoint Drawings Breathe New Life Into Vintage Envelopes, Maps, and More

Mark Powell Sketches A Man's Face On World Map

Artist Mark Powell’s talent with a ballpoint pen is unquestionable. When the Brighton-based creative picks up a Bic Biro pen—his chosen instrument—he breathes new life into anything he draws on. And as skilled as Powell is with a pen, one of the most striking things about his sketches are his canvases of choice—a variety of unconventional, vintage surfaces.

Powell has created his art on letters, maps, playing cards, paper money, and shopping bags, among other mediums. The oldest of his “canvases” dates back to 1756, long before the invention of the ballpoint pen that he used to sketch on it. Powell began drawing on various ephemera after finding an envelope that was sent from the trenches of World War I. After realizing that the soldier who wrote the letter likely never returned home, he felt inspired and sketched a drawing of the soldier as an old man. Since then, Powell has tried to save antique paper products to upcycle them for his art.

Powell's designs range from haunting to harmonious. Many of his sketches stare ahead with blank expressions and tilted heads, silently looking back at the viewer. Other pieces feature animals, from serene songbirds to a pair of elephants with entwined trunks. Visitors to Powell's site will also see close-up drawings of hands, machines, and instruments, all with striking attention to detail.

On his website, Powell states that he tends not to know the people he is sketching “to retain the mystery of travel of both the subject and ‘canvas.'” He doesn't stray away from including wrinkles, veins, and scars on the skin of his creations, with every feature carefully mapped out and displayed proudly. The people he draws are powerfully human, each with their own unique story to tell.

If you would like one of Powell's original sketches, they can be purchased on his website. You can also keep up with the artist's journey on his Instagram.

Brighton-based artist Mark Powell is known for his gripping pen drawings on vintage ephemera.

Sketch Of Man Over Book Cover

Sketch Of Person Over Map Of New York

Sketch Of Man Smoking On Top Of Postcards

He draws on letters, maps, playing cards, shopping bags, and nearly everything in between.

Sketch of Woman Braiding Hair On Top Of Map

Sketch Of Man's Face On Anatomy Textbook

He started sketching on antique paper after finding an envelope from World War I and drawing the soldier who sent it as an old man.

Sketch Of Man Holding Cigarette On World Map

Powell's work is strikingly human, with every line, wrinkle, and vein carefully sketched out.

Sketch Of Man's Face On Top Of Map Of Dublin

Sketch Of Hands Working On Typewriter On Top Of Postcards

Sketch Of Man On Top Of Ocean Map

The artist isn't limited to human subjects, either. Much of his work features birds and other creatures.

Sketch of Owl On Top Of Envelope

Sketch Of Raven On Top Of London Underground Map

Sketch Of Elephant On Top Of Envelopes

Mark Powell: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Mark Powell.

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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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