Introducing Mark Powell

We’re delighted to announce that the work of contemporary artist, Mark Powell, is now available at Enter Gallery. Known for portraits so rich in realism they’re almost hypnotic, Powell’s work is a representation of illustration in its purest and most complex form. Today, we’re providing an introduction to this talented artist, and revealing the inspirations and techniques behind his art. 

Mark Powell The City of Light


Finding his niche

Although it’s hard to believe when you first set eyes on a piece by Powell, his tool of choice for creating his art is the humble Bic Biro. He tells us a little more about this decision:  

‘I choose a biro because it is the most simple and readily available tool to hand. I want to show how easy it is to have the chance to create. I want it to inspire people to give it a go without feeling the need to spend money on arts and crafts. Creation is an easy thing and can be done by anyone at any time using anything.’


Mapping the past

To make matters even more interesting, Powell doesn’t use just any canvas for his Biro portraits, he uses found documentation, be that antique letters, newspapers, periodicals, or maps. His technique seamlessly incorporates details from his canvas into his portraits, to add further depth and expression to those he is depicting.

Jean-Michel Mark Powell

When we enquired as to the genesis of this pairing, Powell revealed that it was born more as a matter of necessity, rather than as a conscious choice:  


‘We were evicted from the warehouse in London, at which point I was painting large scale paintings. I had to work smaller. I found an envelope that was sent from the trenches in World War One. The solider had sent it just before ‘going over the top’. With the likelihood that the solider never returned I decided to draw what he may have looked like as an old man. And so it started.’

‘In an increasingly digital age I want to save as much as I can in the way of maps etc and ‘upcycle’ them. The pairing of elderly people and antique documents is a natural one. Both have an untold history upon the face of it. A suggestion.’


Breathing new life into old documents

On occasion, the documents that Powell chooses do correlate with the person that he is drawing, for example his depiction of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, or American poet, Maya Angelou.  

Mark Powell Hunter S Thompson


However, more often than not the subject and canvas are not directly related. Instead, Powell makes his selections to infuse the piece with just a hint of story. In doing so, he encourages the observer to connect the dots. His pairings spark intrigue, prompting the observer to create a narrative of their own – who is this person? What’s their story? Where have they been, and what might those eyes have seen?


Careful does it

The inspiration behind Powell’s anthropological artworks comes from the places he’s travelled, the people he’s encountered and the documents he has collected along the way. But when it comes to starting an artwork, what comes first, the subject or the canvas?

Powell divulges that each piece begins life with the documentation. Once he has decided on the canvas, Powell then selects the perfect subject from his visual diary of photographs and sketches.

Not only are Powell’s artworks visually-fascinating, but they are also pretty high stakes. There is little room for error when working in Biro, plus the antique nature of his chosen canvases (which are different every time), mean it’s imperative he takes things slowly. Powell reveals:


‘I do it all free hand. Working exclusively in biro, I draw a basic outline and then start working intensely on one particular area. Once I have built up one section I will move onto another. It’s pretty intense because I can’t afford to make any mistakes.’


A Long and Winding Road

When you consider the skill that goes into his artworks, it’s amusing to discover that Powell’s entrance into the art world happened purely by chance. After being fired from a job, the Yorkshire man decided on a whim to visit Huddersfield.

Wandering the city, bored, Powell found himself looking around the art department at Huddersfield University where he got chatting to the head of department. After flashing a couple of the sketches he’d drawn at one of the ‘many jobs he’d been hired and fired from’, Powell decided to enrol and became a student of Fine Art and Drawing.

After university, Powell was invited to the United States to show his work in a few spots around the country. In 2006, he returned to the UK with just £1 in his pocket, and spent the next year creating art and exhibiting, all whilst sleeping on the concrete floor of his studio in Leeds. After a move to London’s Brick Lane, Powell’s break came when his work was featured on culture website, Colossal. All of his work sold out in a matter of hours, and this was just the push he needed to become a full time artist. The rest, as they say, is history!


We’re delighted to welcome Mark Powell to Enter Gallery. To peruse all of the artworks available, click here.