Behind The Scenes: The Art of Painting 2Pac in A Surrealist Style By Reves One

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It only feels like yesterday I was asking Reves One how he planned to approach our 2Pac – Changes exhibition. I had an inkling he’d do something dark. As a Neo-Noir Illustrator and Graffiti artist I expected nothing less.

It was in August that I first became acquainted with his work and, at that stage, I took an instant liking to the fact that he never paints the eyes of his characters. The only example of this I’d ever seen before was Scorpion in Mortal Kombat and, being an early fan of the video game, it gave me flashbacks to childhood.

Straight away I thought: how would 2Pac look with his eyes turned inside out? Those big brown eyes were such an important part of its character, that’s it’s difficult to imagine. I put the idea to Reves. He responded with a depiction of 2Pac so surreal, you’d swear the rapper was something out of a horror movie. Read on for the story behind it:

What was the inspiration behind your canvas for the 2Pac – Changes exhibition?

2Pac is a legendary figure who I wanted to capture in my own style. I chose to explore him through the medium of portraiture.

What do you want people to think when they look at it?

It’s a big, very out-there piece. On the one hand, I want people to people to be hit with a mystery-dynamism-Russian dolls sense of surrealism. On other hand, due to its size, I feel it evokes a great sense of power.

Talk us through the process involved in its creation

It all started with a small sketch on A4 paper, drawing from references, then adding my patterns and touch of surrealism.

Initial sketch

With the final 120x100cm canvas, I started with a pre-coat of white emulsion to make the surface less rugged. This way the colours would pop, rather than be completely absorbed by the fabric.

Next, I painted the background a warm elephant grey, before adding the first construction lines using Posca marker pens. After that, it was a question of putting masking tape around the construction lines. This allowed me to isolate the inside areas, which I filled in using spray paint.

With all the spray painting and detailing out of the way, it was time to focus on the jewellery and highlights.

The piece would finally be round off with matt varnish.

What was the most memorable thing someone said about it on the day of the exhibition?

A woman looked at the piece and said: “It’s scary!” It’s not the first time, but this was just one of many comments I received about it.

What did 2Pac mean to you before starting the exhibition, and how has that changed since?

I am deeply involved in hip hop, and big into 90s gems by the likes Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony, Lord of the Underground, Busta Rhymes Eminem, Biggie, and, of course, 2Pac.

However, contributing to an exhibition like this really made me rethink what a big influence 2Pac was on society. He made people believe in themselves.

Love the piece? For this and other artwork, enquire with Reves directly on Instagram at, @therevesone.

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