• Roy Lichtenstein

    Roy was born in 1923 in New York City and raised in an

    upper-middle class family. As a boy, he loved tinkering with mechanical

    things, exploring the Natural History Museum, listening to radio

    programs, playing jazz music and creating art. After high school, he went

    to college in Ohio State University to study fine art and graphic design,

    but shortly after beginning, he had to join the army to fight in WWII.

    Luckily, he was able to serve as a cartographer, which is a map

    draftsman. Three years later, he returned to Ohio State to finish his

    degree and worked as an art teacher and graphic designer so he could

    earn a salary while he explored his own painting. His early painting style

    seemed to be a fusion of comic books and Picasso, whom he admired

    greatly. He used flat shapes, solid colors and thick black outlines.

    Although he was interested in the abstract art of the 1950s, he thought it

    was too popular and too easy for anyone to copy. It seemed that anyone

    could express their feeling on a canvas with colorful paint. So he

    searched for different and unique ways to

    create art.

    After the war, Americans became consumed with buying

    products. Newspapers, magazines, billboards, and televisions became

    heavily used mediums for mass communication, advertisements and

    commercials. This gave rise to another art form called commercial art. A

    graphic designer is a type of artist who creates artwork to sell products.

    As Roy worked as a graphic designer, he realized how important this

    type of art was to Americans, yet it was not appreciated as much as fine

    art paintings. He believed that both art forms relied on a visual code to

    communicate its message. Along with several other graphic designers,

    he came up with an idea to transform common objects, like a soup can

    label, into iconic superstars. This style of art became known as Pop Art!

    These artists used bright, shiny colors, snappy designs and catchy words

    like, “Whaam!” Even though it ridiculed the shallowness of American

    culture it was humorous and easy to understand.

    In 1961, Roy had been experimenting with comic strips in the Pop

    Art style when his son challenged him one day. He pointed to a Mickey

    Mouse story book and said; "I bet you can't paint as good as that, eh,

    Dad?" Well, of course he took the challenge and the result was a

    painting that launched him into the style of pop art that he became

    famous for. Ultimately, Roy Lichtenstein caused people to reevaluate the

    definition of art and helped elevate illustration and comic book art to be

    just as valuable as fine art. He was one of the most popular and

    successful artists of the American Modern art movement. He died of

    pneumonia in 1997 at the age of 74.

    © Brook Mesenbrink 2017

  • Roy Lichtenstein


    Drawing paper, colored markers, pencil/eraser, stencil alphabet letters,

    dot stencil, magnifying glass

    Elements of Art:

    1. A Line is a mark made by a tool that represents the outline edges of an object, shape, surface, shadow or color. There are a variety of lines: thick, thin, curvy, strait, zigzag, short, long, implied, etc.

    (Variety means many different kinds of the same element.)

    2. Unity describes the similarity of the elements which join them together.

    © Brook Mesenbrink 2017

    Look At: “Whaam!” 1963, oil on canvas, 67 x 160 inches This painting was inspired by a comic book called,

    “All American Men of War”, that was popular in the 1950s.

    Roy studied popular comic books, then appropriated, or borrowed,

    certain elements from it that he thought were most important. He

    transformed the original by simplifying the composition, colors and lines,

    then enlarging the art onto a large canvas. Some people criticized him as

    a copycat, while others praised his irony. This painting is as tall as an adult and longer than two adults laying

    down end to end.

    Q: Look at the “All American Men of War” comic strip. Can you find the elements that he borrowed (appropriate) from this

    comic strip and translated into his own style? (Notice the airplanes, lines, explosion shapes, etc.)

    When comics are printed, the lines are made with tiny dots of ink,

    called Benday dots. Sometimes they are used to create value or shading.

    Use a magnifying glass to compare the original comic strip with Roy’s

    painting. Roy emphasized the process of printing by enlarging and

    painting the Benday dots onto his canvas with a stencil.

    Q: Can you find the dots in “Whaam!”? (use magnifying glass)

    Art Analysis:

    1. Find Lines: What kinds of lines do you see in “Wham!”? Do the

    dots make lines? (An implied line is created when two or more

    points make an invisible line.)

    2. Find Unity: What unifies all the different lines? (color black)

    Practice Art Instructions: See separate page


    Lines  Unity 





    © Brook Mesenbrink 2017

  • Roy Lichtenstein Art Practice: 

    With a pencil, trace around stencil alphabet letters to draw an interjection-onomatopoeia word (such as Wham, Pow, Bam, Splat, Zoom, Skdoosh, Boom, Blam, Boing, or Kaboom), in the middle of the paper. Outline with a black Sharpie marker.  

     If a stencil is not available, draw the letters large and spaced apart lightly with a pencil. 

     Draw a line around the initial lines to make shapes of the letters. 

     Erase the inner lines and trace over the shapes with a black Sharpie marker. 

     Add horizontal lines inside the shapes. Thicken the line of one side of the shapes with black marker. 

     Around the word, draw a curvy, puffy line that becomes a cloud shape with a black marker. Next, draw a zigzag line around the puffy line  with a black marker. Use variety in the length  and direction of lines. Draw single lines shooting outward from the words. 

     Color the zigzag shape red and the inside of the letter shapes yellow. Leave the cloud white. Add a pattern of Benday dots by making rows of blue marker point marks around the shapes. 

    © Brook Mesenbrink 2017

  • Roy Lichtenstein 

    Original Disney Book Look Mickey!, Roy Lichtenstein

  • Whaam!, Roy Lichtenstein

  • All American Men of War, Comic Strip

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