Pop Art Portraits: Inspired by Andy Warhol’s Self-portrait No. 9
In this activity students will develop their understanding of how and why artists express ideas and meaning through self-portraits and consider the role of the viewer when engaging with artworks and interpreting meaning. They will explore the aesthetic qualities of Andy Warhol’s work and use collaging and drawing techniques to produce a self-portrait inspired by the conventions of Pop Art.
- Define the term ‘self-portrait’ and discuss why artists produce self-portraits.
- Examine an example of Pop Art portraiture by Andy Warhol and present a range of interpretations of the subject matter based on their ideas, observations and imagination.
- Use visual conventions from Pop Art portraiture in their own mixed-media self-portrait.
- Reflect on and share the creative processes and expressive choices they made when creating their artwork with a classmate.
Made by a student during a workshop at the NGV.
The name Andy Warhol has become synonymous with Pop art, a style of art that emerged in Britain and America in the mid 1950s and culminated in the 1960s. Pop art took its inspiration from popular culture. Warhol’s iconic Pop Art works include images of consumer goods such as Campbell’s soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles, and portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe based on media photographs.
Although Warhol was fascinated with celebrity, and became a celebrity himself, he remained a private and mysterious person. These contradictions are evident in his Self-portrait no. 9, 1986. This is one of a series of self-portraits the artist made in 1986 using a photograph of himself wearing a distinctive wig. The size of this work and the strong visual contrast between the face and the background clearly focus attention on the artist’s face. However, the fluorescent camouflage pattern has a concealing effect. Disembodied from the dark background, the face appears mask-like and haunting.
Look at the related work and use the following discussion prompts to explore Andy Warhol’s approach to self-portraiture:
- What is a self-portrait?
- How does a self-portrait made by an artist differ from a photograph of a person?
- Why might an artist want to create a self-portrait?
Andy Warhol’s Pop Art portraiture
Andy Warhol was inspired by consumer culture and mass production, and often produced multiple versions of the same artwork. For Andy, art itself was a product. He was not very concerned with depicting the subjects of his portraits realistically. Instead, he used bright, bold colour to produce portraits that captured the attention of viewers in the same way advertisements did.
- What do you notice about this self-portrait by Andy Warhol? Why do you think the artist chose to present himself in this way?
Consider the way the artists hair is styled, his expression and the focus on his face with no body visible.
- Which colours and shapes can you see in the work? Why do you think the artist chose these colours and shapes for his self-portrait?
Consider the black background, camouflage patterning and fluorescent colours.
- What kind of personality do you think Andy Warhol had? What makes you think this?
- Which colours and shapes would you use to create a self-portrait inspired by Andy Warhol?
Resources & materials
- White A4 paper
- Coloured paper
- Drawing paper
- Graphite pencil
- A4 acetate
- Permanent black markers
- Black paper
Students design and create their artwork through the following steps:
- Cut out various shapes from pieces of different coloured paper for the colourful background of your Pop Art portrait.
Choose colours and shapes which represent the parts of your personality you want to show and represent in your artwork.
- Arrange the shapes onto plain A4 paper.
- When you are happy with your arrangement, glue the coloured shapes down and set your background aside.
- Sketch your self-portrait onto a piece of drawing paper.
Which emotion will you show? How does the emotion relate to the parts of your personality you want to show?
Consider the size of your drawing – your self-portrait should fit nicely over your collaged background.
- When you are happy with your sketch, trace the outline of your drawing on A4 acetate with a permanent black marker.
- Position the acetate over your coloured background and tape it in place.
- Next, create a frame for your self-portrait:
- Cut around the self-portrait sketch you did on drawing paper.
- Place this in the middle of a sheet of black paper and draw around it.
- Carefully cut the shape of your face out of the middle of the black paper. This will be the frame for your artwork.
- Tape the frame over the top of your self-portrait to finish your artwork.
Present & reflect
Students show their self-portrait to a partner and explain:
- Which colours and shapes did you choose for your self-portrait and why did you choose them?
- Which part of the activity was the most enjoyable?
- Describe your self-portrait in one word.
- How did Andy Warhol’s self-portrait inspire the creation of your own self-portrait?