Inspiration 102: Pop!

Originally Published: May 7, 2017

Pop Art has long been one of my most favorite styles in the history of art. Dense, saturated colors, bold lines, and simple iconic compositions are common in this art style. Pop art came about as a rejection of the Abstract Expressionist movement that was the "it" art style after WWII. With significant cultural shifts taking place as the 1950s moved in to the 1960s, Pop Art made its debut in the United States and Great Britain. While Abstract Expressionism focused on an expression of the inner-self in sweeping, gestural strokes and drops of paint (think Jackson Pollock), Pop artists began to incorporate a flattening of the surface in terms of way paint was applied. The ever popular textural application of paint was abandoned for smooth surface applications. Screen-printing, primarily used in advertising and commercial art, began being applied Andy Warhol who himself had transitioned from the commercial to the fine art world. The removal of the visibility of the individual artist's hand, as well as repetition became an important characteristic of the Pop art movement. Ben-day dots, typically seen in newspaper print, found their way in to the technique of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein who made paintings resembling scenes from comic strips.
In terms of subject matter, the pop artists focused on easily recognizable objects, people and animals. A banana, box of steel wool, a cow, comic strips, magazine cut-outs, soup cans, celebrities....any image of popular culture or mass consumption was a prime selection to star in a pop art painting or sculpture. Compositions are typical very simple and bold giving the object of choice an iconic-like status. Undefined backgrounds that are implied by color and/or simple cast shadows are also common. Bold and graphic outlines are often seen along with flat planes of bright colors.
Inspiration from pop art creeps in to my own work. I love to work with a wide array of color, and many of my works incorporate a simplistic, centralized subject matter, defined loosely in space by cast shadows alone.

Want to create your own pop art inspired work? Here is a take-away project for all ages!

Make a Pop Art inspired painting of your favorite candy! First find a reference image of your favorite candy if needed for sketching- better yet go treat yourself to that favorite candy bar and save the actual wrapper! Lightly sketch out the outline on to your surface of choice (you can use any number of items to paint on: any think weight paper, canvas, an artist panel, even cardboard or wood lying around the house! Utilizing your outline as a map, apply bright paint colors. Pick a bright fun color to use as the background. Try to embellish the image by using black or white outlines for contrast. Try to apply the paint in smooth even layers to avoid seeing thick brushstrokes- after all the Pop Artists tried to avoid the visibility of the human hand in the finished image. Feel free to share photos your completed paintings!

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