Hi there! My name is Roy Lichtenstein. I am an artist who helped start the genre of Pop Art.
I was born in New York City in 1923.
Growing up, I was interested in drawing and science and the way mechanical things worked. I lived near the American Museum of Natural History, so I spent hours exploring the exhibits of dinosaurs, plants, animals, bugs, mummies, stars and planets.
I read science magazines and listened to radio programs – if you can believe it, there was no such thing as television when I was a boy – and my favorite radio show was the science-fiction adventures of Flash Gordon.
In high school, I decided I wanted to be an artist, so I studied art in college at Ohio State University and became an art teacher. I was influenced by Pablo Picasso…
…and Fernand Leger…
…because I liked the way they used solid colors…,
…and thick outlines almost like comic books.
So my early paintings were abstract versions of American historical events, like my version of Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware.
I also liked the Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock, but lots of artists were copying it, so I wanted to find new ways to express myself.
Since I liked looking at comic books and bubble gum wrappers with my sons, I made a painting for fun in 1961 of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck called Look Mickey. I made the colors smooth and flat without brush marks to make it look mechanically printed so it was very much the opposite of Abstract Expressionism.
To really create the effect of printed cartoons, I even added little dots on the painting, called Benday dots.
Benday dots are used in comic books or cartoon strips to create color tints in an inexpensive way, and usually you don’t really notice all the little dots. But I liked to emphasize the Benday dots.
I went on to create more paintings based on cartoons, comics, bubble gum wrappers, and newspaper ads, and I injected my sense of humor into the paintings.
In addition to Benday dots, which became my trademark, my techniques included thick lines…,
…diagonal line patterns…,
…and even conversation balloons.
Other artists, like Andy Warhol, experimented with cartoon-like paintings at the same time, and we started the Pop Art movement.
We were reacting to the abstract art, which does not look like anything or tell a story. Instead, we used familiar objects and popular culture as the basis for our work.
The name Pop Art comes from “popular”. Pop Art was not taken very seriously at first, but people began to enjoy that the painting and sculptures were fun, and art critics began to appreciate Pop Art as an important style.
My first art exhibit was in 1962. As I continued to create art, I also made collages…,
…scenes of everyday objects…,
…and huge murals, like one that is over six stories high, called Mural with Blue Brushstroke.
You may be interested in knowing my process for making a painting. I start with a sketch on paper, and I erase and make changes until it is exactly what I want, and I color in the picture with colored pencils. Next, I trace with India ink on tracing paper.
Then I cut out painted pieces of paper, which are the colors I want for the final artwork, and I paste them onto my drawing. I cut them into unusual shapes and add Benday dots and diagonal lines. I then project the picture onto a wall to decide what the size of the painting will be, and I measure it.
Now I order the canvas and stretch it, undercoat it with white paint, and project the image onto the canvas. I draw my image and refine it with a ruler and compass, taping lines or shapes.
Then I add the colors.
As I finish up, I sometimes consider what the art critics will think. “There are always little areas of doubt in your mind. But I think you should approach art as something you really love to do. That’s the impulse. Otherwise, you’ll never succeed in any way.”
Now you can see my art in many places, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Here’s what you should remember about me.
- I am Roy Lichtenstein.
- I lived from 1923 to 1997.
- I am a known for my Pop Art inspired by comic books and bubble gum wrappers.
- My trademark is Ben-Day dots.
Investigate the life and art works of Roy Lichtenstein in this artist unit study!
Watch the video about me too!
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