Graphic Art: A Closer Look at Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein
Life & Art
American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein was born in 1923 into an upper-middle class family in New York City. During college he studied fine art at Ohio State University. Over time his artistic interests and style shifted from cubism and expressionism to pop art imagery and eventually abstract expressionism. Despite his dabbling in a variety of styles, his most notable work is in the area of pop art graphic imagery.
Lichtenstein was first inspired to pursue pop art graphic design in the early 1960s when one of his sons challenged him to paint an image like those in his Mickey Mouse comic books. Lichtenstein's work eventually became so successful that some of his pieces were later used in popular DC Comics. The most famous of these was Girl Drowning (1963), a painted, line drawing which perfectly captured the emotions of the subject and the physical movement of the water.
Other pop art pieces by Lichtenstein were adaptations and interpretations of previously published strips from DC Comics. One well-known example is Lichtenstein's work Whaam (1963) which presents the image of a fighter jet crashing in a split screen comic book style. While many critics argued that Lichtenstein's work was unoriginal, others noted the subtle differences between his comic book style and ordinary comic book art. Lichtenstein's use of color, line movement and words tell a complete story in a single snap shot, rather than serving as a small part of a bigger whole, which is the case in most comic book art.
Over the years, Lichtenstein has become an artist worthy of study by art students as the popularity of his work has increased. In 1997 and 1998 pieces of art by Lichtenstein were used by the internationally popular British band U2 in their PopMart Tour. Similarly, Lichtenstein's work Crying Girl (1963) was used in the 2009 hit sequel Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.
Art teachers can help students understand, recognize and replicate Lichtenstein's style by following these Roy Lichtenstein art lesson plans.
Teachers should show examples of Lichtenstein's works and describe the purpose and intention of his art. They may wish to ask students to bring in comic books of their own which bear resemblance to Lichtenstein's work, or may choose to visit a local comic book store or book store chain to find examples of other graphic art pieces. With the recent popularity of graphic novels, teachers may wish to make the connection between Lichtenstein's early work in this art form and the progression the form has taken over the last forty to fifty years. Becoming more familiar with current graphic novels may be necessary.
To begin to see the difference between Lichtenstein's intentions and comic book art, students should be asked to look for a particular comic book panel that exemplifies the clean line drawings, emotions, and colors that Lichtenstein used.
If teachers wish for students to try their hand at Lichtenstein's art style, it might be best for students to start first with an emotion they wish to express and then consider the simplest image that could portray that emotion. Some suggestions might include fear, joy, happiness, loneliness, depression and excitement. Students should then imagine a simple graphic image that includes the facial expressions associated with the emotion they chose. Prior to beginning this art lesson plan students should have a working knowledge of facial drawings and forms.
While Lichtenstein used oil and early acrylic art paints, it might not be feasible to have students use all of these paint media. Teachers should use their best judgment to determine which paint media is best suited for their art students. Supplies needed for this project include pencils, black markers, paint, and a canvas or paint paper on which to form their drawing.
When students have completed their art projects they should be able to recognize Lichtenstein's style and understand the complexities of producing graphic art.
Author's Own Experience