Pop art portraits: music icons captured in colour | By Kerwin blog | Music art painting prints

Pop Art Portraits: Music Icons Captured in Colour

Exploring how music and pop art collide with these famous artists, paintings and prints

In this article I explore the vibrant world of pop art portraits and how they typically use vivid colours to capture the spirit of the world’s biggest music icons.

As a UK artist with my own brand of ‘By Kerwin’ music paintings, I explore the works of renowned artists like Warhol, the techniques used in music-infused pop art, and the contemporary celebration of music icons through digital art and exhibitions.

Pop art has long been celebrated for its bold and vibrant representations of popular culture. From Marilyn Monroe to David Bowie, pop art has captured the essence of music icons through colourful and captivating portraits. In this article, I delve into the world of pop art portraits and explore how they can bring music icons to life on canvas.

Pop art portraits have become a powerful medium to celebrate and immortalise music icons. Through its use of vibrant colours, bold strokes and inventive techniques, pop art captures the essence, energy and cultural impact of musicians – such as Elvis and David Bowie – throughout history.

Kerwin Blackburn exhibiting his Jackson Pollock inspired pop art music paintings and prints at The Other Art Fair London, July 2021 | Jimi Hendrix
Pop art portrait paintings by Kerwin Blackburn

Read on as I discuss some of the key features of music-inspired pop art.

The essence of pop art portraits

The origin and characteristics of pop art portraits

Pop art emerged in the 1950s as a reaction against traditional notions of art. It celebrated mass culture, consumerism, and the everyday objects and people that defined the zeitgeist. Pop art portraits, in particular, captured the essence of famous individuals, including music icons, in a distinct and eye-catching way. These portraits aimed to elevate popular figures to the status of cultural icons.

Roy Lichtenstein was one of the early pioneer of pop art portraits. I saw one of his key paintings, Girl with Ball, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in early 2023 – read about my experience here.

Capturing the spirit of music icons in pop art

Music icons possess a unique charisma and cultural impact. Pop art portraits typically channel their energy and influence through their use vibrant colours, bold lines, and a fusion of artistic techniques.

Such portraits not only pay homage to the musicians but also evoke the spirit of their music and the era they represent. By using dynamic compositions and expressive brushstrokes, pop art portraits can bring music icons to life on the canvas.

Famous music icons immortalised

Iconic pop art portraits of David Bowie

David Bowie, the chameleon of the music world, has been a popular subject of pop art portraits. Artists have captured his ever-changing personas and musical evolution through their artwork. Pop art portraits of Bowie – such as my By Kerwin David Bowie painting – often emphasise his striking features, vibrant costumes, and eclectic stage presence. My portrait reflects his impact as a trailblazer and cultural icon.

The bold strokes of pop art in Madonna’s portraits

Madonna, known for her reinvention and fearless persona, has also been immortalised in pop art portraits. Artists have embraced her provocative image, empowering feminism, and boundary-pushing music. Pop art portraits of Madonna employ bold strokes, vibrant colours, and playful compositions to encapsulate her essence as a pop culture icon.

Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe: an everlasting tribute

No discussion of pop art portraits is complete without mentioning Andy Warhol’s iconic portrayal of Marilyn Monroe. Warhol’s silk-screen prints of Monroe have become emblematic of both pop art and Monroe’s enduring allure. Through his distinctive repetition of her image, Warhol highlighted Monroe’s status as a symbol of fame, beauty, and tragedy.

Techniques and styles in music-infused pop art

Pop art collages: unconventional harmonies

Collage techniques can play a significant role in music-infused pop art portraits. Artists have been known to combine various visual elements, such as sheet music, musical instruments, and album covers, to create layered and textured artworks. These collages capture the essence of music icons by integrating their musical contributions into the visual representation.

My By Kerwin paintings do not feature collage techniques – although I have used various materials in my paintings. My George Harrison painting features real dried flowers, while Kate Moss and John Lennon incorporate gold leaf.

Psychedelic visions: pop art and music fusion

The psychedelic art movement of the 1960s and 1970s merged with pop art to create visually captivating representations of music icons of the era. Bright colours, intricate patterns and surreal imagery were employed to reflect the psychedelic experiences associated with music and the counterculture.

Pop art portraits in this style pay homage to musicians like Jimi Hendrix (he is one of my most popular By Kerwin paintings) and Janis Joplin, who were synonymous with the era’s vibrant music scene.

Jimi Hendrix pop art music painting prints | By Kerwin | Kerwin Blackburn | Purple Haze
My Jimi Hendrix is one of my most popular pop art paintings

Pop art and musical symbolism: a colourful language

Colour symbolism is a powerful tool in pop art portraits of music icons. Artists use specific hues to evoke emotions, capture the essence of a musical genre, or represent the energy and personality of the musicians.

For example, vibrant and bold colours may be used to convey the liveliness and passion of rock and roll, while softer pastel tones may represent the soothing melodies of jazz icons. The creative use of colour adds another layer of meaning to pop art portraits, creating a visual language that resonates with music enthusiasts.

On the subject of colour psychology in music, my blog post on Prince explores why he became synonymous with the colour purple. Meanwhile, my blog post on Marvin Gaye explored how the yellow and maroon colour palette was used by Tamla Motown to convey a certain feeling.

Celebrating music icons today

Contemporary pop artists and their musical inspirations

Pop art portraits of music icons continue to thrive in contemporary art. Emerging artists – such as myself with my By Kerwin range of portraits – draw inspiration from both the legends of the past and the current music scene. Through their unique styles and interpretations, pop artists aim to capture the spirit of today’s music icons, reflecting the ever-evolving nature of popular culture.

Pop art portraits in the digital age: a new canvas

With the advent of digital technology, pop art portraits have found a new canvas online. Artists often utilise digital tools and platforms to create stunning and accessible artworks. From social media platforms to online art marketplaces, digital pop art portraits enable artists to reach a global audience and connect with music enthusiasts from all corners of the world.

My By Kerwin range of artwork does not feature digital art; all of my portraits are hand-drawn and hand-painted paintings. I believe that in an era of digital art there is a greater appreciation for hand-crafted work – and that my unique talent is my ability to produce my artworks by hand.

Pop art exhibitions: showcasing music icons in colourful splendour

Pop art exhibitions and art shows dedicated to music icons serve as a platform to celebrate the artistic fusion of music and visual arts. Such exhibitions can bring together an array of pop art portraits, showcasing the diverse interpretations of music icons by different artists. They provide an immersive experience for visitors, allowing them to delve into the rich cultural legacy of music and its artistic expressions.

I have exhibited my By Kerwin brand of pop art portraits in a number of solo exhibitions and art fairs. Explore these in the Exhibitions section of my blog.


Pop art portraits have become a powerful medium to celebrate and immortalise music icons. Through its use of vibrant colours, bold strokes, and inventive techniques, pop art captures the essence, energy, and cultural impact of musicians – such as Elvis and David Bowie – throughout history.

Whether it’s the iconic images of David Bowie, Madonna’s fearless persona, or Warhol’s repetition of Marilyn Monroe, pop art portraits bring music icons to life in a way that resonates with both art enthusiasts and music lovers alike. As the world of pop art continues to evolve, these vibrant and captivating representations ensure that music icons will forever be celebrated in colour and creativity.

Which music icon should I capture in my pop art painting style next? Let me know!

View my full range of Jackson Pollock-inspired pop art paintings and prints of your favourite music and pop culture icons at www.bykerwin.com. High-definition printing, fast worldwide delivery and satisfaction guaranteed. You can follow my art progress on Instagram and Facebook.

Kerwin Blackburn exhibiting his pop art, Jackson Pollock-inspired music paintings and prints at The Other Art Fair London, October 2021 | By Kerwin
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