Using Pop Art for Your Class: Pop Art Lesson Plans

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Pop Art Is

What do collage pictures, a Campbell’s soup label and life-size plaster-cast figures all have in common? They are all examples of famous works in pop art that can be adapted for use in pop art lesson plans.

These historically atypical expressions of art are all part of a movement dedicated to re-examining the obvious. Students should begin to consider why these images were chosen and what might be chosen today to express similar ideas.

Pop Art Collages

British pop artist Richard Hamilton offers a wonderful illustration of the use of collage art in pop art. His work Just What Is It that Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? uses a variety of magazine images and clippings to capture Hamilton’s impression of the new modern home in the 1950s.

Students could attempt a similar concept with modern magazine clippings and advertisements. An updated version of Hamilton’s collage might include a photograph of a flat-screen, flat-panel High Definition television from a newspaper flyer, an iPod advertisement, a shrunken Starbucks coffee mug sitting on a piece of furniture from an IKEA ad, and a miniature modern classic movie poster. To make these student reproductions fit into the scale of a living room, a color copy machine should be available for this project.

Plaster or Plastic People

American pop artist George Segal is famous for his plaster-cast human figures. What makes these figures pop art is the ordinary, every-day nature of their design and their placement in public locations. Segal formed the figures by developing plaster casts from human models and then reconstructing them into a whole person. The expressions and stance of these figures is typically very somber.

A similar pop art style was developed in 2003 by artist Mark Jenkins. Jenkins used cellophane and clear packing tape to design life-sized figures which he then placed in major cities in conspicuous settings. The figures, sometimes clothes, sometimes not were placed leaning against walls on busy streets, sitting atop neon signs, or leaning against light posts. Jenkins has also designed giant tape telephones and attached them to pay phones and turned a set of parking meters into a giant orange tape lollipop.

Through these pop art lesson plans students can experience the sculpture elements of pop art. For projects based on Segal’s figures, students can work with paper mache to develop figures or work with plaster-casting just as Segal did. To replicate Jenkins style students will need large amounts of cellophane and clear packing tape. Objects being wrapped in packing tape should first be wrapped in cellophane and then wrapped multiple times in the packing tape. Once the object is layered in packing tape, scissors should be used to cut the object out of the wrapping along the back of the tape. Blunt scissors work best when cutting tape from human subjects. For safety in the classroom, round balls should be used for the heads, rather than wrapping students' faces.

Silk Screening the Ordinary

In keeping with Andy Warhol’s silk screened images of Campbell’s Soup Cans and Marilyn Monroe, art students can explore pop art in these lesson plans through a silk screening project. Students should choose a simple image to reproduce. They will need access to a silk screening machine including the necessary paper, fabric and ink. If a silk-screening machine is not available, a computer art program and color printer could be used to simplify and reproduce a chosen image. Students should strive to find something that represents everyday life. Teachers may wish to give suggestions such as a cell phone, a candy bar, a desk, a soda can, etc.

Making Pop Art Pop

These pop art lesson plans should help make your pop art class a memorable experience for both you and students.