Art that POPs

                The American Pop Art movement was heavily influenced by the comic style. The Pop Art movement began gathering momentum around the late 1950s. It is unsurprising then that the Pop Art movement drew heavily on comic style as comics rose in popularity in the 1960s. Relying on popular culture, some elements of the Pop Art movement drew on comic style in order to exaggerate and make a statement.

Roy Lichtenstein's Look Mickey!
Roy Lichtenstein’s Look Mickey!


Original illustration from Donald Duck Lost and Found by Bob Grant and Bob Totten
Original illustration from Donald Duck Lost and Found by Bob Grant and Bob Totten

Different methods were used in order to create this “comic” style. First, it was largely exaggerated. In Roy Lichtenstein’s Look Mickey!, only primary colors are used. The original comics strip that Look Mickey! is based off of, on the other hand, uses a full range of colors and has subtle blending. Lichtenstein’s painting has no shadows, no blending apart from the ben-day dots on Mickey’s face and perhaps Donald’s eyes. These ben-day dots are commonly employed to create subtle colors differences in comics. But due to the lack of shading in all other parts of the painting, the ben-day dots stand out much more. There is also the addition of text in the upper left corner in a speech bubble, a trademark of comics, serves to increase the tension (and the humor) between the two subjects. The font is all in capitals, and “Look” and “Big” are bolded. These two words may also serve to draw attention. Also remarkable is that it is based on an extremely well-known comic. It manages to exaggerate the dimensions of the original, and even though it is a painting, it adheres more to the stereotypical style of comics.

The use of ben-day dots may also be more extremely exaggerated, where the whites between the dots are more apparent and the original meaning to shade is stripped, as in the following depiction by Lichtenstein. It seems more like an enlargement of a figure from a comic strip rather than a separate portrait. Nevertheless, it still manages to retain the distinction between Pop Art rather than Comic Art. Roy-Lichtenstein_1964 It seems that Pop Art seemed often to exaggerate elements of popular culture and items of everyday use, and therefore both mocking them while buying into its very popularity. While Lichtenstein’s Look Mickey! is a painting, it is more comical than the comic, playing with the irony on the difference between comics and art. Although this style has become less popular, it remains an undeniable portrayal of the influence of comics upon other mediums.

  3 comments for “Art that POPs

  1. elewan
    March 1, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    It is interesting that you looked at the pop art movement and its appeal to comics. I feel that if it is not a super hero comic, pop art stands out in other comics that I have read. Because comics are not heavily influences by text, the illustrators do have to come up with something like bolding some words or exaggeration to capture their audiences. What I am curious about is what technique illustrators use for dark comics and how they use their techniques to capture their audiences.

  2. cl3ver
    March 14, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    I also thought a little about this connection between pop art and comic art when we started looking more closely at graphic novels. One of the first things I thought of is a quote from “Exit Through The Gift Shop”, where Banksy said something along the lines of how Warhol took something everyday and repeated it over and over again until it had no meaning anymore. In a way, I see this in comic art. Characters and sometimes even frames are repeated over and over again. (I’ve never even read a Superman comic, but I’d bet I could draw a pretty good rendition of him.) We see a similar concept in Lichtenstein’s work, with his comic-looking paintings and ben-day dots. Granted, not all pop art is like Lichtenstein paintings, and not all Lichtenstein paintings look like they’re pulled out of a comic book. For example, there was a Lichtenstein piece at the Ridderhoff-Martin gallery a year or so ago. If my memory serves me, it was a table and chair like setting. However, it still held close to the stereotypical comic art in several ways. It used very few colors and had very sharp and exact lines, something I associate with comic art. I definitely see how you’re associating these type of pieces with comic and graphic novel art – the bright colors, clean lines, and sometimes the ben-day dots seem quite unique to these art forms. Although the big wave of pop art seems to have passed, I wonder if there are any prominent artist following in the steps of those like Lichtenstein…?

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