September 13, 2011 will mark the 15-year anniversary of Tupac Shakur’s death. XXL pays homage to the rap legend in the magazine's forthcoming September issue. For that issue I was asked to paint Tupac Shakur if he were alive today.
He died smooth faced and young, so I had to think of how he would have aged. Not just like adding tiny wrinkles everywhere, each person ages differently (don't I know it.) Looking at his face I thought of the young and handsome Marvin Hagler. He was a great middleweight and sported a smooth bald head and a lean and lethal look. Today he's an older man, living in Italy. He looks almost jolly.
He started to wear some weight in his face and cheeks. Skin becomes more bumpy and pours are more evident. Of course grey hairs start to come out.
I think Tupac would have had some evident eye wrinkles based on how he looked then. Considering all of this, I came up with this sketch....
The reference I used was quite helpful but I needed a bit of clothing that was less 1990 and even a bit understated, as if he were in cognito. That was what I was going for.
I painted Tupac at the time of he passing the The Source Magazine. This image pops up as a million avatars all over the web. Every time I would check to see who was visiting my old website, most of the traffic was swiping that image. That's my I took it off of the site. It's a nice portrait though and more smooth and refined.
Getting old is a brutal process for most of us. Skin sags, gets bumpy. Hair goes grey or thins and weight is a constant issue for most.
I was kind to the late Tupac and imagine he lived a decent life, not eating himself into oblivion and basically keeping his famed look. There is the slightest hint of anxiety I added to his face which I felt made him look less posed, less comfortable with being seen. I have that look when someone takes my picture in 2011.
The alternative to is be eternally young through an untimely passing. It ain't for me.