Friday, January 8, 2016

Benday Dots (Lichtenstein's Style Self Portraits)

Do you know Roy Lichtenstein?
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Roy Lichtenstein was one of the most important artists associated with American Pop Art. Beginning in the late 1950s, he turned to comic strips and advertisements as a primary basis for his art. The resulting paintings, sculptures, and prints that gained widespread recognition during the 1960s were not simple replicas of their source material. Lichtenstein expanded his imagery in size and reduced shapes to bold, flat colors with precise outlines, which often incorporated exaggerated patterns of benday dots used in photomechanical reproduction.
During his long and distinguished career, Lichtenstein frequently turned his attention to the art of the past and made free adaptations of modern styles and reproductions of paintings by twentieth-century masters such as Picasso and Matisse. Although his works seem at first to be neutral presentations of their subjects, they glamorize the ordinary through exaggerations of color and design. Often at odds with the sentimental, violent, or banal nature of his subject matter, Lichtenstein's style transforms his base material to create ironic commentaries on popular culture.

benday dots:
a dot/grid system used to create tones or shading in screen printing, especially in the commercial art world of the 1960s. Pixels on a computer are a contemporary parallel. Tones can be changed by varying the color, number, and size of the dots per inch.

Developed by Ann Perry Parker, Merrimac School, Sauk Prairie Schools, Sauk City, Wisconsin

Summary of Activity

This lesson uses the art of Roy Lichtenstein to initiate an examination of popular culture. Students will analyze what is popular today and discuss why they know it is popular. Students will be photographed creatively posing with a popular object of their choosing. Working from this photo, and using primary colors and dramatic text bubbles that characterized the artist?s work, students will create a self-portrait in the style of Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein.

Learning Objectives

Students will learn about the Pop art movement and how it used images from advertising, cartoons, tabloids, and everyday objects in new ways.
Students will consider the phenomenon of popularity, then create a list of what is popular today, understanding that popularity is always changing.
Students will analyze the work of Roy Lichtenstein, identifying his use of primary colors, cartoon imagery, and dramatically worded text bubbles.
Students will learn how dot screens (benday dots) and later pixels are used in graphic design to create color variations with the use of halftones or what passes for shading in commercial photographic work.
Students will learn to compose a piece of art using cropping, editing, and professional looking graphic design style.
Students will learn to use a light box, photography, photocopiers, and dot screens to achieve the look of a cartoon.
Students will learn how dramatically worded text balloons enhance Lichtenstein's work.


Discuss Roy Lichtenstein and show examples of his work, including Sandwich and Soda. Lichtenstein and his fellow Pop artists rebelled against the prevailing heavy brushwork and abstraction in fashion in the 1960s. Instead they looked to the popular arts of tabloids, soap operas, cartoons, and advertisements then called commercial art (now more commonly called graphic design). Students will discuss the popular images that surround them in youth culture, then choose an object to be photographed with. Working directly from an enlargement of this photo, students will create a work of art that includes words and visuals in a comic-book style.

Happy Dotting! 1969

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