Astounding Topographic Portraits

Stacey Kole By Stacey Kole  |  Dec. 21, 2012

Artists can do a lot with a blank canvas. But UK-based Ed Fairburn demonstrates that a canvas with lines, words, and markers works just as well—or maybe even better.

Take for instance the figurative work Fairburn produced on Bartholomew maps, where a series of portraits utilize the maps’ features to produce a stunning finished product. Out of the chaos of the maps’ topography, large-scale portraits emerge with unparalleled depth and complexity—the more you look, the more you see.

Explaining his process, Fairburn says, “I study both the physical attributes of the terrain and the features of my chosen subjects. I search for opportunities to synchronise the two, finding similarities between the patterns, before drafting out the portrait and building the tone.”

Check out Fairburn’s Facebook page for more examples of his creativity on unexpected surfaces.

Pencil portrait on a Bartholomew map of Pembroke, Wales.


Pencil portrait on a Bertholomew map of Galloway, Scotland.


Oil and pencil on an OS map of South Wales, trimmed and mounted on plywood.


Ink on a 1977 road map of Germany.


Ink on a street map of Cambridge, England.


Have you worked with unusual sources to create imagery? What extra value does it bring? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.