jayzWhen Amar Stewart moved from London to Bushwick a couple of months ago, he brought with him his oil paintings of Biggie and Tupac, inspired by the art of Frans Hals, a Dutchman whose works hangs at The Met.

This month, Stewart completed 13 more pieces — including three still lifes — while working eight hours a day as Cotton Candy Machine‘s first artist in residence. The whole series, titled “Hip-Hop Royalty,” will be on display Saturday from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Before you stop into the Williamsburg gallery for a free beer and cotton candy, click through our photos of some of the works above, paired with commentary from Stewart and Cotton Candy Machine co-owner Sean Leonard.


In August, Stewart will undertake the second installment at Public Barber Salon in San Francisco, dedicating all his talent to West Coast rhymers like NWA, A$AP Rocky, Dr. Dre and Snoop Lion. Rest assured, he also has a grand Kanye West project in the works.

Slideshow: “Hip-Hop Royalty”
<strong>Rick Ross in “Ross Is Boss”</strong>

Rick Ross in “Ross Is Boss”

Stewart: “I think Rick Ross, he just looks so proud in that. The sunglasses definitely help. So this is like a cape coming from the back here, and he’s got gloves on here. Just like super loose. And then this represents some sort of shield so it’s like a return from a battle of some sort.”

<strong>The Notorious B.I.G. in “VIII”</strong>

The Notorious B.I.G. in “VIII”

Leonard: “It pays wonderful tribute, giving him the royal outfit to match his crown. When you’re creating artwork, you want it to be iconic and you want it to be recognizable and impactful, and I think Amar’s idea of combining these icons and masters with 17th-century masterworks from Frans Hals and finding inspiration from the poses there, I think it’s a beautiful tie-in, the two, where you have the familiarity from pop culture and art history."

<strong>Tupac Shakur in “PAC with a Skull”</strong>

Tupac Shakur in “PAC with a Skull”

Stewart: "I did Tupac first, which was quite tricky because I knew that I had to sort of set the standard with the collection. I was in London so I was in a different place and a different headspace. Moving over here, being in Brooklyn and in the heart of it, it kind of gives me a new sort of energy. It gives me just a new outlook on everything. Most of the people who come in here have a genuine love for [hip-hop].”

<strong>Questlove in “?uest”</strong>

Questlove in “?uest”

Leonard: “He’s part of the greatest band in late night, which is actually a very New York, cultural thing. And now they’re on The Tonight Show—it’s pretty exciting. So I love that. And Captain Kirk who plays guitar in The Roots is a friend of the shop, he’s come in with his family, so that’s really nice. That really stokes me out.”

<strong>Jay-Z in “Jigga with a Feather Hat”</strong>

Jay-Z in “Jigga with a Feather Hat”

Stewart: “I think Jay-Z’s great, I love him... I think that him wearing a feather hat sticks out more for me than a crown. He’s doing his own thing, and I think that he’s always done that. Biggie and Tupac have the grandest pieces, but I feel that Jay-Z is always there sort of scheming something new and that’s why I chose that outfit for him.”

<strong>Eminem in “Ready for Battle Marshall”</strong>

Eminem in “Ready for Battle Marshall”

Stewart: "He’s so aggressive in his performances and the way he acts. You don’t really see him in the spotlight as much as everyone else, so he does have that sort of uncomfortable look about him, you know especially with his big covered-up hat that he’s wearing...Apart from the Eminem one, every other piece that you see they have like highlights of their outfits that are quite detailed, and then they do have this sort of dripping effect or this movement. The other thing with a lot of this work is that the subjects I’ve chosen and the feeling of movement is what I feel they’ve done for the music industry as well. Is that they’ve been moving with the times and they’ve inspired and motivated people such as myself."

<strong>Mary J Blige in “Lady Blige”</strong>

Mary J Blige in “Lady Blige”

Stewart: “I transitioned from aerosol to oil. My idea was to not do what everybody else does. What a lot of other artists have done with oil is they’ve kept it quite clean and very soft in the way that they make a piece. What I wanted to do is actually bring the aerosol style that I had to an oil painting. It’s quite rough, it’s quite loose, and the great thing about Frans Hals is that all of his work is very, very loose when you compare them to say like Rembrandt. His stuff is very loose but he still could create a beautiful painting. And for me, I wanted to try and fuse his vision into what I’m doing. But like I said also this is the story of the fact that I used to be a street artist."

<strong>Lisa “Left Eye" />

Lisa “Left Eye" Lopes in “Run to the Hills”

Stewart: “I did a show last year with an Australian gallery and it was called Master Impressions, and that was the sort of lead-up to this concept. I was just painting hip-hop icons in an impressionist style but very modern—they weren’t wearing these sort of outfits. I wasn’t inspired by Frans Hals because I hadn’t really discovered his work by then. But TLC was a group that I sort of really loved listening to when I was a kid, and I got in touch with them and they were super cool, they loved the piece and stuff that I did before. I e-mailed TLC and sent them the original painting that I did of all three of them from last year and they caught wind of it and they were really into it and so it’s like a continuation of that. They haven’t seen this one yet. Although she’s not necessarily hip-hop -- she’s more R&B but I guess, Mary J. Blige fits in that as well -- I feel that’s it’s all kind of melded into one culture. So it works.

Biggie in <strong>“Ready to Die”</strong>

Biggie in “Ready to Die”

Stewart: "The 'Ready to Die' baby from the cover of The Notorious B.I.G. album. I added a little skull there as sort of a little bit of a moodier piece."

<strong>Action Bronson in “Bronson III”</strong>

Action Bronson in “Bronson III”

Stewart: "He’s from Queens, he used to be a chef and he used to rap on the side and he’s pretty much one of the biggest guys in the game right now. He’s all over the Internet. He’s blowing up."