Andrej and Julia Warhola, an immigrant couple from Ruthenia (now where Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine and Romania meet) decided to leave Europe and live the American Dream. On August 6, 1928, in a working class neighbourhood from Pittsburgh, Pensilvania; Andrew Warhola was born, the youngest out of three brothers (Paul, John and Andrew).
From early age, Andrew demonstrated talent in drawing and painting. But life was not easy for him, apart from not having prominent economic resources, he suffered from Sydenham chorea (also known as St. Vitus dance), a neurological disorder which causes involuntary movements. At times, his medical condition prevented him from assisting school, Andrew would read comics and Hollywood magazines to keep himself entertained, he enjoyed to play with magazine paper cutouts.
Along with his neurological disorder, he had pigment issues that caused discolouration of his skin, reason why he was nicknamed “Spot” or “Andy the Red-nosed Warhola” which later in his life lead him to makeup and plastic surgery.
When Andrew was 13, his father Andrej (a construction worker) died in an accident; but left some money for him to get formal education.
Andy, a commercial artist.
After graduating from art school in Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), Andy moved to New York City along with two college friends Philip Pearlstein and Lelia Davies to pursue his career as a commercial artist; this new change leaded him to decide on dropping the “a” from his last name.
His first work appeared in Glamour Magazine, 1949. This success was the turning point in his career, with distinguished clientele such as Tiffany & Co, Miller Shoes, Fleming-Joffe, Bonwit Teller, Columbia Records, and Vogue.
Pop art creation
Blotted-line technique was the one Andy was known for, a process he started at college but later refined on the 50’s. His new method allowed him to combine basic drawing and printing, creating multiple illustrations with easy colour composition modifications.
The pop art movement originated in Britain during the 1950’s, and immediately caught Andy’s attention. He had great appreciation for mass-production, specially products (what we know now as CPG). This allowed for every day items to become fine art pieces; in 1961, Andy created his first pop art paintings, which were very similar to his childhood paper cutouts work based on comics and ads.
Andy’s 1961 Coca-Cola work was the breakthrough of his career, demonstrating that the transition from hand-painted to silkscreen was progressive; the sketch began with black and grey outline followed by had painted technique, a blend of pop and abstraction.
What’s so special about pop art?
The appreciation of pop art is much simpler than most people think, it is the expression of acknowledging and visualizing the fact that we all share lots of experiences and preferences. Products that are designed for everyone (CPG) have that magic, when you eat a Campbell’s soup, you are eating the exact same product that people ate in 1869, rich or poor, famous or common people; it is about those products that make us unite and share a common tastes and experiences. If you think about it, it is the exact opposite of what we understand for concept of “art” which implies extremely high prices, distance, and visual appreciation only; pop art invites you to become part of it.
“You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke too.”Andy Warhol
Mass production, an inspiration
Andy started to make box sculptures in 1963, imitating a factory assembly line which created hundreds of replicas of consumer packaged goods products such as Brillo Boxes, Heinz Boxes, Del Monte Boxes, and more. It was almost impossible to distinguish the sculptured from the supermarket products themselves!
But in 1968, Andy pushed himself away from pop art after Valerie Solanas, (an extremist and radical feminist) tried to kill him shooting twice; damaging his stomach, liver, spleen, esophagus and both lungs. Her motives were due to plagiarism-related paranoiac thoughts regarding her “masterpiece” SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) manifesto; she tried several times to involve Warhol on her extremist ideals such as a play written by herself called Up Your Ass. With little success, she envisioned to “overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex.” (Breanne Fahs) These organ damage was the cause of death for Andy years later, and was forced to wear a corset for the rest of his life.
Commercial illustration career
As we previously talked about, Andy was known for his development on developed a blotted-line, which allowed him to create a wide variety of illustrations using the same initial pattern, idea that generated several illustrative options to his clients. Andy once famously said “I want to be a machine”, due to his appreciation on mass production, replicating commercial advertisement and for later to develop the over-printing technique; which is printing one colour on top of another along with registration, aligning colours on a single image.
Andy and CPG
A part from working with Coca-Cola, he worked with Campbell’s, Del Monte Peaches, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Heinz Ketchup and Mott’s Apple Juice But when asked why he chose Campbell’s, he answered:
“I used to have the same lunch every day for 20 years.”Andy Warhol
The approach taken for his art is basically making the ordinary, extraordinary. It relates to the premise of not acknowledging what we do have on our everyday life, just imagine how difficult it was for Coca-Cola, Campbell’s or any other brand to gain popularity; they are the superstars of the groceries because they fulfill the customers in multiple ways, not only satisfy basic needs, but making them enjoyable.
Christian Louboutin found inspiration from Andy, he designed a pair of shoes based on the “flowers” piece, but when the shoe arrived, it was missing something specially on the sole… Something that makes it pop out, just like Andy’s work; he turned and saw one of her assistants painting her nails with red varnish, and the rest is history.
“The key of the success of Studio 54 is that it’s a dictatorship at the door and a democracy on the dance floor.”Andy Warhol a regular at Studio 54.
Yours truly, Monsieur Marketing.
Andy Warhol’s Life. The Andy Warhol Museum. (n.d.). https://www.warhol.org/andy-warhols-life/.
Chrzan, J. (2020, January 21). Andy Warhol and iconic package design. Packaging World. https://www.packworld.com/design/package-design/article/21111166/andy-warhol-and-iconic-package-design#:~:text=It%20is%20notable%20that%20Warhol,displays%20of%20mass%2Dproduced%20products.
Pruitt, S. (2018, May 31). Andy Warhol Was Shot By Valerie Solanas. It Killed Him 19 Years Later. History.com. https://www.history.com/news/andy-warhol-shot-valerie-solanas-the-factory.
Rogers, K. (n.d.). Andy Warhol is born. World History Project. https://worldhistoryproject.org/1928/8/6/andy-warhol-is-born.
Valerie Solanas. Feminist Press. (n.d.). https://www.feministpress.org/books-n-z/valer.
Dicker, L. (2020, October 13). DID YOU KNOW… The story behind Louboutin’s red soles? AzyaaMode. https://www.azyaamode.com/en/did-you-know-the-story-behind-louboutin-s-red-soles-.