DIY Pop Art Masterpiece

Hello and welcome to Week 16! We’re heading down an interesting road this week, and indulging my longstanding fascination with Andy Warhol.

It all started in the summer of 1983, when I read “Edie”, George Plimpton’s gossipy biography of the late Edie Sedgewick, an heiress who spent most of the late 1960’s hanging out at Andy Warhol’s studio in New York.

A decade later, I passed several weeks glued to the 500+ pages of Bob Colacello’s “Holy Terror”, the story of Colacello’s years as the editor of Warhol’s magazine “Interview”. Then in 2009, I picked up Richard Polsky’s “I Bought Andy Warhol”, the chronicle of Polsky’s twelve-year quest to buy a Warhol artwork of his very own.

DIY With Daniel Douke
I was fascinated by the chapter in “I Bought Andy Warhol” where one of Polsky’s clients, an artist named Daniel Douke, tries creating his own version of the legendary Warhol silkscreen paintings of Marilyn Monroe.

Douke found the original still photo that the Marilyn screens were made from (now in the public domain) and realized that with some basic silkscreening skills, he could create the same paintings. I was awestruck by this — it had never occurred to me, but Douke was right. From a technical perspective, the “Marilyns” aren’t highly sophisticated. Someone with a little bit of art training could make a reasonably good copy. In other words, could I actually create my own “Marilyn”?

Elizabeth Taylor Makes Up My Mind
In 2011, I got to see “Silver Liz”, another famous Warhol silkscreen, up close and personal. This sealed the deal. I could tell that these were not precision artworks — in fact, the placement of color behind the final black screen on “Silver Liz” was pretty rough.

I hit up my home library for some books on beginner’s silkscreening. One of them, “Simple Screenprinting” actually had a Warholesque project in it. I had some learning ahead of me, but re-creating a Warhol “Marilyn” looked like it might be do-able.

Until I Got to the Equipment List …
“Basic Equipment” was a list of 35 items. I estimated that I’d be into this for over $250 just to get started.


My little project had just become much too expensive to be considered a life hack — especially for a single print. I put Miss Monroe away as an idea that I might try sometime in the future.

Children’s Art Book to the Rescue!
And then I stumbled onto an alternate idea in a children’s art book. To teach Andy Warhol’s basic style to children, the book has them take individual photos of themselves against a white backdrop and make a super high-contrast black-and-white photocopy onto a transparency. Using colored paper, the kids create their own vividly colored pop art background and glue the transparency on top. So clever — I loved it!

Here’s Some Instructions
I took this idea and adapted it to create my own little 4-inch “Marilyn” canvas. Here are the step-by-step instructions, in case you want to try creating an Andy Warhol-style canvas for yourself.


Step 1 Buy yourself a canvas, up to 8″ x 10″.
Step 2 Find your photo — something with little or no background is ideal. Bring it into a photo-editing program like Photoshop if you need to adjust the size to fit your canvas. (If you don’t need any size adjustment, skip straight to Step Four.)
Step 3 Once your size is adjusted, jack up the contrast until you have a photo that’s pure black and white with almost no gray and no background color.
Step 4 Experiment with high-contrast photocopies or black-and-white laser print-outs until you have a photo that’s pure black and white with almost no gray and no background color.
Step 5 Run this off onto full-sheet transparent label paper.
Step 6 Take a print of your original photo and put it up against a window. Use a pencil to rub around the major outlines.
Step 7 Flip the print over and tape it to your canvas. This is where you need to get creative. Trace over the places where you want to place major blocks of color.
Step 8 Take off the print and color in the blocks with whatever art materials you have available: watercolor paints, tempera paints, pencil crayons, you name it. There’s lots of latitude here.
Step 9 When your paint has dried, erase your pencil lines and then use an x-acto knife to cut out your label.
Step 10 Place your label on the top of your canvas and admire your fabulous work of art!
The finished project, on a nice little wooden stand that I picked up at Michael's for $7.00

The finished project, on a nice little stand that I picked up at Michael’s for $7.00

We used two books in finding the way to this week’s library life hack:

Simple Screenprinting:
Basic Techniques & Creative Projects
Written by Annie Stromquist
Published by Lark Crafts
Released Aug 1 2005
ISBN 1579906648

My Art Book
Published by Dorling Kindersley
Released April 26 2011
ISBN 0756675820

A Little Bit of Happy
Allow me a moment to gush about “My Art Book”! What a wonderful way to teach children about the history of art. It also exposes them to a whole variety of artistic styles by giving them creative hands-on projects. With a few adaptations, these could easily be used for adults. In fact, I want to try out their Van Gogh project.

The Numbers
Between and, “Simple Screenprinting” sells for an average of $13.30 and “My Art Book” averages out to $13.33. That’s a total of $26.63.

Now as to the value of the art … well … the original 16”x20” Marilyn canvases by Andy Warhol now sell for well into the millions. So, technically, my library card has saved me at least five million dollars. (This argument sort of falls apart when you realize that we’re comparing the work of an artistic genius vs. a knockoff created by a complete nobody, with two years of design school, watercolors and some transparent sheet labels. But it’s kind of fun, isn’t it?)

And that’s all for this week. I’m going to challenge you to try this out, and send me a photo of your results. Then tune in next week, when we take a culinary trip to the U.K. while I look for the perfect genoa cake recipe. Remember, your comments and questions are always welcome – thank you for reading this post and see you next week!


2 thoughts on “DIY Pop Art Masterpiece

  1. What a great project! I could see a lovely wall decorated with eight or ten small pictures in a row, if one could find enough ideas for the “small art”. It might be tough to reproduce The Last Supper or The Night Watch, but luckily the twentieth century gives us lots of works of art that do not require too much in the way of special skills to recreate. One could look to Piet Mondrian, Mark Rothko, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, and many others for inspiration. Thanks for the idea!


  2. Pingback: Amazing DIY Pop Art

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