Graphic Design


Andy Warhol was many things: illustrator, photographer, artist, filmmaker, music promoter, author and celebrity.

His rich artistic legacy lives on at DMA, where our art & photography students use some of his famous silk-screening techniques to make image magic! In celebration of what would be his 88th birthday on August 6th, let’s take a look at his influence on our student projects this summer!

Warhol Campbells Soup cans
Andy Warhol left an indelible stamp on American art, and he remains a huge influence on anybody who wants to learn graphic design. (Photo: © 2016 The Andy Warhol Museum)

THE POPE OF POP

Andy Warhol grew up in Pittsburgh and attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology. During the 1950s, he worked as a commercial illustrator, becoming very popular and able to command hefty fees.

By the early 60s, Warhol was pioneering his vision: Pop Art – a school of art that was especially concerned with how modern images were used in popular culture. His most famous early works were his paintings of a Campbell’s Soup can, churned out in a type of artistic mass production.

DMA Warhol artwork by Amanda
DMA student Emily Spikes has the Warhol silk-screen method down, and shows it in this class work.

Warhol often used well known celebrities as his subjects. His silk-screening method borrowed elements of printmaking that Warhol had studied, and used that to create multiple images of movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

The typical Warhol “celebrity” silk-screen was a painting containing two or more identical photographed images, each filtered through a different tint or color.

RECREATING WARHOL’S METHODS IN ART CAMP

In our Junior Adventures in Art & Digital Photography camp, kids ages 6-8 get to explore both facets of Warhol’s graphic art – as photographer and artist.

As photographers, students go on “photo safaris” around campus, finding interesting subject matter worth capturing. They also learn how to process those images in Adobe® Photoshop®.

David Bowie by Colette Albertson
DMA student Colette Albertson pays tribute to Warhol’s method with these iconic David Bowie images.

Then students explore Warhol’s famous silk-screen method firsthand, taking an image and reproducing it multiple times in alternate colors. (Repetition of images was a key part of Warhol’s method, such as in 1962’s “Green Coca-Cola Bottles” – an image of 112 Coke bottles stacked in rows.)

What makes this learning experience even cooler is that Warhol is just one of the famous artists covered in the class. These junior campers also study and learn to mimic the styles of artistic heavyweights such as Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh and Matisse!

DMA Warhol artwork by Maria Kuzmina
DMA student Maria Kuzmina demonstrates her Pop Art smarts in this piece.

Warhol’s silk-screen method is also explored by our older students, as well. The various student pieces showcased in this article were all created by DMA students in our two-week graphic design academy, which exposes students to numerous types of graphics preparation during a power-packed, pre-collegiate experience.

A PROFOUND AND POPULAR LEGACY

Andy Warhol has remained an icon of Pop Art and modern celebrity. He’s been immortalized in everything from sneakers to The Simpsons, and the silk-screening techniques he helped popularize are still in use today…like at DMA.

More importantly, Andy Warhol’s work marks the moment when art and commerce first recognized they were linked through advertising and celebrity. His work still stands as a comment on that powerful relationship – and it’s never had more to say.

DMA Warhol artwork by Ruoxuan Shao
Ruoxuan Shao made this Katy Perry masterpiece in class at DMA!

Marvel Comics is a publishing super-colossus. To its legions of fans, Marvel’s New York headquarters is an almost mythical place, a Wonka-esque wonderland where super-heroic tales are spun and fleshed out with mind-blowing graphic design.

Downey_at_Marvel_HQ
Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., checks in at Marvel HQ in NYC. (Photo: Marvel Studios. All rights reserved.)

While Marvel doesn’t offer official tours of its creative offices, we have been lucky to catch fleeting glimpses of the sleek offices (which are located on W. 50th Street in Manhattan), thanks to 2015 publicity photos featuring Avengers cast members visiting Marvel’s New York digs.

Marvel_building_NYC
Marvel’s current headquarters are in the Sports Illustrated building. Marvel has occupied eight different Manhattan buildings during its 77-year run, including one stint within the Empire State Building. (Photo: Marvel Studios. All rights reserved.)

Getting a tour behind the scenes at Marvel can be as tough as getting inside Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory! Lucky individuals who’ve gone “behind the curtain” usually have a personal connection to someone who works for the company.

Evans_Ruffalo_Renner_at_Marvel
Chris Evans (aka Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (The Incredible Hulk) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) pose at Marvel HQ, fronting cool Hulk artwork! (Photo: Marvel Studios. All rights reserved.)

Avengers cast members like Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner were at Marvel HQ to promote 2015’s Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.

MY VISIT TO MARVEL

Marvel’s current offices are incredible showplaces, and seem much more contemporary and cool than those I remember.

Back when I made my 1977 pilgrimage to Marvel HQ, the company was in different offices back on Madison Avenue, home to the advertising industry (and the famous street that inspired Mad Men).

My parents had brought me to New York so I could try to meet Marvel publisher and writer Stan Lee, my boyhood hero.

Stan_Lee_and_Spidey
Stan the Man goes one-on-one with his most famous creation, around 1972. (Photo: Raeanne Rubenstein)

I expected the Marvel building to be a little more like the Baxter Building that housed the Fantastic Four. Instead, it was pretty average – just another huge skyscraper on a street full of skyscrapers. But we checked the business directory and sure enough, this was the place.

We exited off the elevator and found a set of two big wooden doors. The gold plate on the door had been engraved to simply read “MARVEL COMICS.” But there was no superhero art on display.

THE MOMENT OF TRUTH

I cautiously approached the receptionist on duty.

“Uh…excuse me? Can we see Stan Lee, please?”

The receptionist barely looked up at us.

“Stan isn’t here right now. He’s at lunch,” she said very flatly, as if she said it a hundred times a day.

“Do you know when he’ll be back?”

“Nope. Sorry.”

I retreated, feeling disappointed. I was about to wander back into the elevator and start the long, dejected trip downward, when my Dad suddenly pulled me over toward where he was standing, directly behind a huge indoor plant.

“Hey, sport,” he whispered. “Got an idea.”

Stan_Lee_bearded_action_figure
Stan Lee is the only comic book publisher to have inspired his own action figure. I had to meet him…

DAD SAVES THE DAY!

My Dad pointed to his watch. “It’s almost 3:30. I’ll bet he’s going to be coming back from lunch soon. Let’s just wait over here for a second and see what happens.”

We tried to remain as still as possible behind the plant, since we were still basically just loitering in Marvel’s lobby.

We hadn’t waited more than a minute or so when the elevator doors and a tall gent stepped out. He was taller than I anticipated but one look at his mustached face and I knew it was Stan the Man himself.

Catching him before he walked into Marvel’s offices, we quickly flagged him down. We told him who were and Dad offered up that we came to New York so I could make a pilgrimage to Marvel. Lee muttered something positive like, “Hey, that’s great!” but I could sense he was in a hurry.

Stan_Lee_autograph
Trophy Number One: No “excelsior!” or “Stan the Man,” but who cares? It’s Stan Lee’s autograph!

I asked him if I could have his autograph and he nodded. He took my sheet of stationary from the Hotel Taft and my Dad’s black felt-tip Flair pen and signed “Stan Lee” in a signature similar to the one printed in “Stan’s Soapbox” in about a zillion Marvel comic books each month. I then got a quick handshake before Stan disappeared behind Marvel’s doors.

FANTASTIC, SUPER, INCREDIBLE DAY!

We had met Stan Lee and walked away with a lasting trophy. But I didn’t get to visit Marvel’s legendary bullpen. I hadn’t even had time to ask Stan if we could go inside. Things hadn’t gone quite like I’d figured, but I wasn’t complaining any when we hit the street again.

It was a great day in Manhattan – and I didn’t even tell you about meeting Pop art giant Andy Warhol! But hey, that’s a story for another day…