Stunning artwork wraps new album
Artist Elliot Francis Stewart has captured the colourful rise of hip-hop superstar Savage from his South Auckland hood, to illustrate new album Mayhem & Miracles.
Stewart is a long-time fan of Savage, who took the US by storm in 2005 when his single Swing clocked over 1,500,000 sales on the back of its featuring in blockbuster comedy Knocked Up.
But his introduction to the rapper came by chance after he bumped into old mate Andy Murnane and Brotha D, from Savage's record label Dawn Raid, while strolling down a Papatoetoe street.
"Just the person we want to talk to," they told Stewart. "Can you come in tomorrow afternoon around 2?'
"He [Savage] asked me if I would be keen on doing the artwork for his new album Mayhem & Miracles," says Stewart, who duly fronted the next day. "He showed me a picture he had drawn of a castle with one side of it representing heaven and the other hell. He told me a bit about where he had come from and how music had given him a different experience of life. I've always liked rap music, particularly his early stuff with Deceptekonz.
"He took out a whole bunch of photos – a picture of the house he grew up in and then some shots of when he was younger with the friends he hung out with.
"They were all rocking bandannas and carrying bats ... They looked mean as. It was pretty freaky but it was kind of easy to figure out what he wanted.
"I heard a couple of the songs from the album [Mayhem & Miracles] but I mainly drew on the basis of our conversation. Savage is always going to be Savage. I drew all five of the illustrations they've used in the album artwork in black and white, showed them, and they said it was great but could I colour them in?
"So I went home, coloured them in, took them back ... It was so rad."
Stewart, one of nine children, grew up in East Auckland's Pakuranga and left his mark on the suburb as a graffiti artist. Art is now his livelihood and, aside from his commissioned street work and the occasional comic strip, his work comes through word of mouth.
"Drawing for other people is not the easiest thing in the world and that's what's good about working with a musican because there's a lot more room to be creative," Stewart said.
Word of mouth will take on an international flavour, particularly in the US, when Miracles & Mayhem is released overseas.
"The way he [Stewart] interpreted the album cover was just amazing," Savage said. "He's a very talented brotha, a very talented artist. I couldn't have asked for a better job.
"He's completed the album. I'm totally happy with the songs, the title of the album and now the artwork. People who know both of us [he and Stewart] say we're such totally different characters they can't believe how we could collaborate. I just tell them that we found common ground."