A Rare "Brush" With Tradition: Andy Warhol's Paintings

A Rare “Brush” With Tradition: Andy Warhol’s Paintings

Andy Warhol was known for his screenprinting technique, but also experimented with the more traditional approach of painting on canvas. Warhol’s paintings are some of the most expensive works on the market (See last week’s post), as there are very few of them in existence.

Before he became well known for venturing into the celebrities faces that are now synonymous with his prints, Andy Warhol occupied the world of advertising. Many of these advertisements that Warhol designed for women’s fashion magazines were hand drawn and painted in his unique “blotted line” technique.

It was in his capacity as an advertising illustrator, where Andy Warhol developed his unique blotted line prints. In creating these images, Warhol would hand-press a newly drawn out design onto an absorbent piece of paper, transferring the image onto the new piece of paper. By re-inking the original drawing after the transfer, he was able to create similar images that were not exactly like the others; this was a telling precursor to his experimentation with the screenprinting process.

Even with a hand-drawn image, Warhol could create a multitude of artwork out of a single image. Many of Warhol’s paintings were created before his discovery of the screenprinting process– the discovery that would change the way he created his art for the rest of his life.

warhol's paintings inkblot

One of Warhol’s “ink-blot” drawings from the 1950’s.

Warhol’s turn to silkscreening came from his obsession with efficiency, a desire to become a machine, to become his own factory. Whereas Warhol’s paintings could only be produced one at a time, screenprinting enabled him to create hundreds of prints from a single image.

Because of Warhol’s love affair with the screenprinting process, his paintings are especially rare. However, before mastering this printing technique with the use of his famed polaroids and paper, Warhol’s paintings were used when he first tested out the silkscreening technique. In one of his most popular methods, acrylic paint would be used to apply colors to the negatives that would be later screened.

Warhol’s paintings are one of a kind irreproducible editions. They are characterized by thick lines, unevenly distributed paint and a unique color scheme; all of which are details that expose the interference of the artist’s touch. Interesting was Warhol’s decision to use industrial paints for his paintings rather than art supplies. These works were also painted with the use of his fingers instead of actual paintbrushes.

Warhol’s shift to silkscreening correlates with his revelation that large scale repetition was the swiftest way to impact a consumerist society. He displaced the tradition of hand-painting images on canvas, with the truly modern art of reproduction. Editions were made in various sizes, colors and compositions. In this way, Warhol’s art became attainable to every consumer.

As Warhol so famously elucidated on this idea of mass consumerism:
“Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”

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