Whanganui artist Max McGrail will exhibit Icons, his first full collection of drawings, at the Gallery of Fine Arts next week.
Famous faces featured in his works include John Lennon, Stevie Nicks, Jimi Hendrix and Martin Luther King Jr, figures McGrail said had influenced him throughout his life.
"They are all interesting people," McGrail said.
"Some of them are tragic and have died young, but they've left a huge mark on the music scene or the film industry.
"They stick in people's minds, and people like Marilyn Monroe will be around for a while yet."
McGrail said one of his earliest inspirations was The Beatles, who he listened to heavily when he was a "teenager of the late 60s".
"They were the main influence on me when I was younger, and their music just felt so new.
"From there I got into the heavier bands like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, and progressive stuff like Genesis and Pink Floyd.
"I always have music playing in the background when I work, and that inspires me as I go along.
McGrail said he started doing portraits around the age of 12 or 13, after making the step up from "boats and aeroplanes".
"Rather than just doing a straightforward portrait I try and capture a certain expression, almost like the person is looking out at you.
"I've been trying white pencil on black paper for the first time as well, which was a bit weird to start off with.
"It's like working in reverse to a degree, but I've had a bit of practice and the Martin Luther King portrait in the exhibition was done like that.
"I was watching a documentary about him recently and I actually got the picture off the TV, just by pausing it and quickly taking a photo."
Primarily a painter, McGrail said he usually only used pencil when he was planning out his next artwork.
"I'd do the odd sketch for people here and there, but it's only in the last few months that I've really got back into drawing.
"With artists, you'll always have your dry periods, but it's something you have to do and you're not happy unless you can do it.
Icons will run from July 24 to August 13 at the Fine Arts Gallery at 17 Taupo Quay.