Ed Fairburn Uses Paper Maps as Canvas for Portraits

Ed Fairburn is a British artist who creates unique portraits drawn on paper maps. He names his creative process “topopointillism,” derived from its combination of topography, the study of forms and features of land surfaces, and pointillism drawing technique.

In order to create his works, Fairburn spends a lot of time studying old maps of roads, cities, states, countries, and regions, among others. Once he finds a perfect map, he makes subtle changes in markings and patterns found inside it to bring out a human form on the surface.


Something calm for a Tuesday afternoon… a short compilation of fountain pen drawings crosshatched over various maps from my collection. I often use pigment liners for my work, sometimes fountain pen, occasionally dip pen and very occasionally something else entirely. It all depends on the paper type of the map, density of details, what I want to achieve, and of course, my mood. #contemporaryartist #contemporaryart #portrait #crosshatchingart #crosshatching #penandink #fyp #drawing #art #map #maps #inkdrawing

♬ Always Unforgotten – Michael Price

The beauty of Fairburn’s works is that the artist always works inside the constraints offered by the map and keeps its original composition. As a result, the map preserves its functionality and could be used for its original purpose despite its transformation into a portrait.

“I’m interested in the degree of subtlety behind each synchronisation, and the way in which a completed map behaves more like a portrait when viewed from further away – it’s almost paradoxical that a portrait should lose detail when examined closely,” Fairburn shares on his website.

Fairburn showcases his works on social media, often uploading videos that capture the intricacies of his creative process. You can check out more of them below.


✨🇮🇹 From original, to print – crosshatching between the historic streets of Pisa, a challenge which I thoroughly enjoyed. The tiny scale of the roads and other details required a steady hand and limited caffeine intake 😅 The resulting print is one of 7 maps in my latest release, with print editions off to new homes around the world, not just Italy. It’s available in two sizes – the original small scale , plus an enlarged version which can be bought ready-framed. For details follow the link in my bio and select “Studio Store” from the menu. These are limited edition prints, so once the numbers sell out, they won’t be restocked! Huge thanks to all of my collectors, old and new 💙 #portrait #crosshatchingart #crosshatching #penandink #fyp #drawing #art #map #maps #inkdrawing #mapart

♬ Ethereal – Txmy

Crosshatching over Quebec City, Canada 🇨🇦 new originals and prints coming soon! see more of my process and insights over on IG (/edfairburn) #contemporaryartist #contemporaryart #portrait #crosshatchingart #crosshatching #penandink #fyp #drawing #art #map #maps #inkdrawing

♬ Show Me How – Men I Trust

“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