The 1950s ushered in a new wave of artistic expression in Britain and the USA, using colour, media and politics to create an ironic artistic language which undermined the contemporary icons of high art, society and advertising. Andy Warhol --- a gifted radical artist from New York --- took subjects such as Marilyn Monroe, a Campbell's Soup tin or Elvis, and isolated them as simplified designs on canvases entirely removed from the hype surrounding them in the real world. This new movement was later dubbed Pop Art and celebrated the superficiality of media hype while reflecting it back at society to illustrate its thin veneer.
- Skill level:
Emulate Warhol's techniques and incorporate his artistic ethos by working on images that have impact in a world of 24-hour news and information coverage. Pick iconic figures who signify gloss and fame, or find well-known products whose advertising campaigns suggest that they are significant must-haves such as cars, the latest mobile phone, or a brand of soft drink.
Use silk screen, paint on paper or any other method which allows you to break the stylised image down into its component parts and colours --- for instance eyes, lips, lip shadow, hair --- and rebuild the image as separate areas of colour. A composite method gives the most realistic recreation of a Warhol image.
Reproduce the face or object with different colours each time, keeping the cut-out shapes exactly the same, and notice how each time the image is reproduced, the parts which make up the image become more important than the person or object they signify.
Buy a household-name product and paint or draw it to reduce it to its simplest lines. Warhol loved the beauty of everyday objects which most other people take for granted and don't study, and he was fascinated by the graphic design of product packaging such as that for Campbell's Tomato Soup.
Tips and warnings
- Recreate several of Warhol's images to see how Warhol used repetition and fading to undermine the intent of advertising iconic figures.
- Study the Warhol "Gold Marilyn Monroe" to see the distancing and isolating effect that a surrounding sea of gold has upon the fractured, composite screen-printed face in the middle of the piece.
- If you are using photographs from the news rather than images you take yourself, check on the usage to which you are entitled. Copyrighted works may not be used or reproduced either privately or commercially without the photographer's express written permission and possibly a licensing fee, otherwise you are in breach of copyright law. Only use images labelled as Creative Commons or from stock photo sites which have photographs for free or licensed use upon application.
- Using a photo editing program can give you an idea of the effect of a Warhol artwork, but doesn't give you the cut-out effect of his techniques.
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