Comic Pop Art "Boom"

Pop Art

What is pop art?  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the pop art definition is an art in with common objects are used as the subject matter.  The objects are usually incorporated into the work in a physical way.  Examples of these items include road signs, comic strips, soup cans, or hamburgers.

We’ll take a look at some of the origins of pop art.  If you’re unfamiliar with the subject, you’ll learn about the stylistic concepts and some of the pioneers in the industry as well.  Pop art also plays a role in costume designs and makeup, which we’ll also discuss.

The Roots of Pop Art

The movement of pop art started in Britain during the mid-1950s.  Its popularity continued in the United States during the late 1950s.  While the movement started in two countries during roughly the same time frame, the origins were quite different.

In the United States, artists used this style as an edgy form of representational art and composition art.  The basic concepts of the art were based on irony and parody.  Artists created abstract designs to neutralize symbolism in the country.

On the flip side, pop art from Britain started after the war.  It was also based on parody and ironic concepts, but it was more academic.  The art was made to get viewed and appreciated as opposed to influencing and improving society.

Pioneers of Pop Art

There are certain artists that created well-known pieces.  Andy Warhol’s pop art works are some of the most recognized works in the pop art world.  He specialized in creating a bond with artistic manifestation based on advertisements and celebrities.  He incorporated various parts of the media into his paintings, films, photographs, and sculptures.

andy warhol pop art john lennon

Warhol was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1928.  His initial career pursuits were in commercial illustration.  By the 1950s, Andy was recognized for his controversial pieces that influenced the art world.

People would frequently visit his studio and New York.  He named his studio “The Factory.”  The Factory brought together a wide range of diverse people to view Warhol’s art.  Celebrities, drag queens, street people, and wealthy intellectuals all visited his studio to admire Andy’s collection.

Warhol was eventually named the “Pope of Pop” for his role in the pop art movement in the 1950s and 1960s.  However, he wasn’t the sole pioneer of the industry.

Roy Fox Lichtenstein was another New York artist with famous art.  Along with Warhol, Lichtenstein was a leading personality for the pop art movement.  Some of his most famous works of art are:

  • Whaam!
  • Drowning Girl
  • Oh, Jeff…I Love You, Too…But…
  • Look Mickey
  • Masterpiece

How much do you think this art is worth?  Probably more than you guessed.  Masterpiece, alone, sold for $165 million dollars in 2017.  Some other pop art artists that were pioneers alongside Warhol and Lichtenstein include Jasper Johns and James Rosenquist.


People use pop art makeup to design costumes for Halloween or other events.  The pop art zombie is a popular design choice.  Lots of these makeup designs incorporate dots.  They are called “Ben-Day Dots” and named after the illustrator, Benjamin Day.

Roy Lichtenstein, who we previously discussed, used these dots in an exaggerated form in many of his sculptures, paintings, and pieces of art.  They were especially popular when he put a creative spin on images from magazines and comic book designs.

If you’re planning to dress up as a comic book character, using these dots in your makeup design may be an effective technique.  You’ll be accomplishing a couple of things here.  First, you’re incorporating a unique take on a pop culture character.  Second, you would be paying homage to a pioneer of pop art.

Stylistic Concept

There were certain styles of pop art that the founding fathers used that are still popular and recognized today.  One of these techniques is repetition.  For example, Andy Warhol would use the same image several times in one piece.

Andy would take an object such as a Coca-Cola bottle and logo.  Then he would repeat the image in a grid formation.  Each image would be the same, but slightly different.  The color palate would change.  These depictions would represent how a consumer may see products on the shelf of a grocery store.

Rather than painting everything by hand, some of these artists, like Warhol, would use screen printing to replicate the same image.

Celebrities were another popular subject matter for pop art.  Celebrities represented pop culture, so artists used their portraits to convey certain themes or political messages.  Artists like James Rosenquist would use clippings from magazines as inspiration for his work.

The size was a factor as well.  Artists started creating pieces the size billboards.  These massive pieces of art could have a simple and straightforward design, while others would have a collage of different images.

Sculptures are another part of the pop art movement.  Artists like Claes Oldenburg started creating pop art sculptures as early as 1961.  His designs were made of obscure objects such as plaster, wire, undergarments, and pastries.

Oldenburg continued creating these sculptures on a larger scale.  He would use pieces of fabric to make something like an ice cream cone or piece of cake.  The sculptures could collapse on themselves similar to a balloon with the air being let out.

Claes would display some of these pieces in public forums.  In 1974 he constructed a design called “Clothespin” in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The clothespin was 45 feet tall.

Final Thoughts

Pop art has progressed significantly over time.  It played a role in pop culture on different continents.  The unique style incorporated techniques like repetition and sculptures to represent themes such as celebrities and advertisements.

Different artists took separate approaches to their artwork.  People like Andy Warhol used repetition and screen printing while artists like Claes Oldenburg erected soft sculptures made from varying objects in public forums.

Pop art has been enjoyed and admired by people of all different demographics and social statuses.  It’s still used today for makeup and costume designs.