Portraits by Artist – Ed Fairburn

INTRO VIDEO with Jackie

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 WATCH THE DEMO – Ed Fairburn – shows and tells his process



llustrator Ed Fairburn’s Maps series turns road and subway maps into interesting canvases for his ink and pencil portraits.

The artist utilizes the multicolored, patterned surface of each map to serve as an eye-catching attribute that echoes the complex textures found in the human form.

Maps - Portrait - Ed Fairburn

© Ed Fairburn – Portraits

Fairburn says, “Emphasis is placed on the ‘fragmented’ texture of the skin, a process which has encouraged my work to evolve from its occupation of plain paper to the potential occupation of other, pre-fragmented or pre-patterned surfaces.”

Each winding, converging, and diverging route also bears a striking resemblance to the veins and nerves that make up man. There is a connection between the Earth and mankind reflected in Fairburn’s map portraits that at first is a subtle realization, second to the stunning visual amalgamations.


Freelance artist whose work is mostly figurative. I paint, draw and construct using a flexible range of tangible media across a wide range of surfaces and contexts, allowing my practice to exist across various disciplines. The work I produce is largely self-directed, allowing me to explore a wealth of ideas and concepts which need to be realised. 

Maps - Portrait - Ed Fairburn

© Ed Fairburn

I have exhibited internationally and hold a collection of original works and prints available to purchase. I am also able to work on a commission basis.

“Ed Fairburn is a Welsh artist, based in Cardiff, whose ability to combine the geography of our facial features with the geography of the earth leads to a startling and compelling synthesis of the two. Fairburn has become known in Europe for his evocative portraits, which produce complex human features from the apparently random patterns found in mundane topographical and astrological maps.

The beauty lies in how natural this marriage of forms feels. The synchronicity of the patterns between the geographical and the human serves to remind us of how united they are underneath their apparent differences.

His series of astronomically themed portraits makes the point more explicitly, in pieces such as Der Gestirnte Himmel (The Starry Heavens) series. Over these circular star-maps, Fairburn’s pencil sketched portraits humanize the night sky – a modern update of our most ancient impulses to mythologize the constellations.

In his hands, both built infrastructure and natural phenomena echo the organic human form.

National highway systems become capillaries, and the tangle of Paris’ alleyways become the wrinkles that give the face history and individuality. We see how complex systems, from the very small to the very large, repeat patterns that, while ostensibly random, follow a common logic of growth and life. Like a sculptor, Fairburn’s patterns cut away unnecessary detail to reveal the underlying relationships of form in a new way.

In many ways, we are living a golden age of map making, with interactive, richly textured electronic mapping technologies giving us unprecedented, real time detail.

But it is also good to be reminded that, despite the benefits of this Google-era hyperliterality, there is a broader beauty to be found in the ways we visualize our common spaces. Maps can speak to much more than how to get from one place to another.”

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