James Mylne

James Mylne, a British contemporary artist, has gained considerable renown for his remarkable drawings executed entirely in ballpoint pen, showcasing his exceptional technical skills in this unconventional art medium.

Born in 1981 in London, James Mylne is a fine artist who specialises in ballpoint photorealism. Mylne’s photorealistic depictions of celebrities have gained significant media attention. He incorporates mixed-media elements into his ballpoint originals, using spray paint, magic markers, and more. In addition to his celebrity portraits, Mylne’s artwork also touches on personal views and broader interests.

Early life

When Mylne was a teenager, he found that using ballpoint pens instead of pencils for creating photorealistic artwork had its benefits. The outcome was more graphic, and the colour was a true black compared to pencil or charcoal. The point of the pen was ideal for technical detail, and, unlike a pencil, it never needed sharpening. However, mistakes couldn’t be corrected as easily as with paint. This required serious focus and careful control, which added to the time-consuming aspect of working with it.


In 2002, James Mylne enrolled in foundation courses at Chelsea Art College, London, before moving on to Camberwell for his BA in drawing in 2005 and his MA in 2006. Despite facing criticism from his college instructors for using ballpoint pens, James persevered and continued to create his unique and beautiful artwork.

“At art college (2002-2007), my tutors were not too keen on my drawings, viewing them as just pretty pictures, and repeatedly tried to avert my use of ballpoints. Now I’m the only professional artist from that course, and ballpoint drawing has grown in popularity, becoming an accepted medium within the Contemporary Art scene… globally.”

James Mylne

In 2008, James had his first solo exhibition at The Coningsby Gallery in London. This exhibition was the first of its kind in Europe to feature photorealistic ballpoint artwork.

Body of work

In a 2014 interview, it was reported that James Mylne sold his first piece of art when he was 19 years old. His exhibitions of photorealistic ballpoint drawings began in 2001 and have included subjects like wildlife, urban landscapes, and the female form. Mylne’s replicas of iconic photos of entertainers and artists, such as Audrey Hepburn and Jean-Michel Basquiat, gained attention, and Hepburn became a recurring “muse.” Kate Moss has also been prominently featured in Mylne’s artwork, with two of his photorealistic ballpoint likenesses chosen as art magazine covers.

Mylne participated in a 2010 Bic Challenge campaign, creating a replica of Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring using a single black Bic pen. He also participated in two exhibitions titled Reworked, where he collaborated with renowned photographers Terry O’Neill and Bill Wyman. Mylne’s first major solo exhibition was Vintage Vogue, which drew on the elegance and style of celebrated 1940s, 50s, and 60s icons.

In 2014, Mylne debuted his Torn series, which combined photos with matching ballpoint pen drawings torn as if exposing different layers. He also worked with Microsoft to recreate famous portrait paintings using the company’s new Surface Pro 3 tablet and digital pen. Mylne’s Anti Con Art series, which began in 2014, allowed him to express personal views through his artwork. In 2015, Mylne continued to promote his JRM Desktop series, which blended ballpoint pen heavily with mixed media and showcased a blend of alternate interests.

Image credit: James Mylne, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons