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Roy Lichtenstein — Famous Pop Artist and Comic Hero



Pop Art was one of the most influential art movements in history. Its style was more than aesthetically pleasing, but was a way for artists to comment on mass-production, consumerism, and pop culture. At the forefront of this movement was Roy Lichtenstein’s iconic comic-inspired artwork that led the Pop Art Movement. At the end of this blog, you’ll find two fun art projects inspired by Roy Lichtenstein’s art!


Not a reader? No worries — here’s our classroom friendly Roy Lichtenstein Biography video.


Early Life

Roy Lichtenstein was a Pop artist, born in New York City on October 27, 1923. As a young child, he grew a love for comic books and science. His interest in the arts was not unexpected, since his mother, Beatrice Lichtenstein, exposed Roy to museums, concerts, and other aspects of New York culture at a young age. This inspired him to pursue his artistic and musical talents during his teenage years — turning him into one of the most famed Pop artists in history.


Art Education

The Cannon by Roy Lichtenstein, 1948
The Cannon by Roy Lichtenstein, 1948

In the summer of 1940, Roy studied painting and drawing at the Art Students League of New York. In the fall, he entered Ohio State University and met Hoyt L. Sherman — a teacher whose perception-based approach to art shaped Roy's own stylistic approach. In 1945, Lichtenstein went back to Ohio State University to complete his BFA and was later invited to become an instructor. He even assisted in teaching at New York State University and taught at Douglass College. At this time early, in his artistic practice, Lichtenstein's artwork was deeply influenced by artists like Pablo Picasso — clearly a stylistic inspiration for his artwork above titled The Cannon, 1948.


The Many Careers of Roy Lichtenstein

The Valve by Roy Lichtenstein, 1954
The Valve by Roy Lichtenstein, 1954

In June 1949, he married Isabel Wilson Sarisky, who worked in a cooperative art gallery in Cleveland. In the autumn of 1951, Roy and Isabel moved to Cleveland and, as her career prospered, he did not continue to teach. Instead he had a series of visual arts related part-time jobs while he still created art, including industrial draftsman, furniture designer, window dresser, and creating 3D digital models of dials for an electrical instrument company. Because of these experiences, he introduced quirky motors, valves, and other mechanical elements into his paintings and prints, as seen in his The Valve painting above.


Finding His Art Style

Look Mickey by Roy Lichtenstein, 1961
Look Mickey by Roy Lichtenstein, 1961

Lichtenstein’s artwork was originally centered around Cubism and Abstract Expressionism. However, his young son drove him towards Pop Art when he challenged him to create a Mickey Mouse piece that was better than the original. His painting Look Mickey is regarded as the bridge between his Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art works. At first, his Pop Art work was heavily criticized by art critics and he was called a copycat. In particular, Life magazine went as far as to publish an article titled “Is He the Worst Artist in the U.S.?

Roy Lichtenstein review in Life Magazine

Famous Artwork

Benday dots, Roy Lichtenstein

Despite negative reviews, Roy began to work with graphic and linguistic conventions of comic strips to develop his own style of comics where he would use words to express sound effects. He developed a detached, mass-produced effect by creating the effect of Ben-Day screening — a system used to increase the tonal range in commercial printing through a dot screen method (side-by-side dots). His art is now known for this style combined with his primary colour scheme.


Masterpiece, 1962

Masterpiece by Roy Lichtenstein, 1962

This work uses Roy’s classic Ben-Day dot screening technique. It includes the character “Brad” that is represented in many of his pieces, as he felt like that name was a cliché and heroic — perfect for the purpose of relating to pop culture.


Blam, 1962

Blam by Roy Lichtenstein, 1962

Also using Ben-Day dots, this oil painting was a part of Roy’s military comics and was shown at his first solo exhibition. It was inspired by Russ Heath’s 89th issue of his comic book All American Men of War.


In the Car, 1963

In the Car by Roy Lichtenstein, 1963

This is one of Roy’s many paintings based on romantic themes. It was based off of the comic Girls’ Romance and used the recurring figures of the blonde woman and square-jawed man.


Drowning Girl, 1963

Drowning Girl by Roy Lichtenstein, 1963

Once again using the “Brad” character, this work is based off of a romance comic by Tony Abruzzo. This is one of Lichtenstein’s most well-known pieces.


Whaam, 1963

Whaam by Roy Lichtenstein, 1963

This work also references Russ Heath’s All American Men of War comic book. For Lichtenstein, this work was a way to make war seem “ridiculous and juvenile,” since it was represented as a cartoon.


Legacy

Roy Lichtenstein died on September 29, 1997. He played a critical role in the American Pop Art movement by changing the skeptical view of commercial styles and subjects. It is his reimagining of popular culture through the lens of traditional art history that has remained a considerable influence to later generations.



Roy Lichtenstein Art Projects for Kids

Are you a teacher or parent looking for fun Roy Lichtenstein art projects for kids? These two projects will offer them a chance to learn about Lichtenstein while experimenting with his iconic style!


Pop Art “Bubble Letter” Acrylic Painting

Roy Lichtenstein art project for kids

Roy Lichtenstein’s art is very graphic and bright, so it can be a fun concept to introduce to kids! Here’s an easy project to help kids master his Benday dot style.


1- Draw a word in bubble letters that is a sound like “POP,” “BAM,” or “CRASH” with expressive lines around it

2- Outline with black paint

3- Use red, yellow, and blue paint to fill in areas with dots to mimic the Ben-Day dot style!




Lichtenstein Inspired Pop Art Landscape Drawing Project

Are you a teacher interested in a step-by-step Pop Art project for your classroom inspired by Lichtenstein? In this video art project, suitable for grades 4+, you’ll get access to 4 bite-sized guided video lessons that will walk you through creating a unique landscape inspired by Roy Lichtenstein’s art style — that you can own forever! You can draw along with your students and learn how to apply the elements of art like line, shape, space, and colour, as well as balance — a principle of design. Here are the steps that will be taken to create the landscape:


1- Brainstorm the elements of your landscape

2- Design and draw your landscape

3- Colour and stylize your drawing




Additional Teacher Resources:

If you’re a teacher looking for classroom content centered around famous artists, visit this quick and easy resource!


If you’d like more worksheets related to art, check out our teachers pay teachers page where you can get worksheets and lesson plans for your classroom! More classroom resources like this can be found on our art resources for teachers page, where we break down the elements of art, principles of design, art history, and more!






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