Blotted Line

Learn Warhol's Commercial Illustration Technique
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Andy Warhol, The French Look, 1950s, ©AWF

Students learn how to use Andy Warhol’s early drawing technique that incorporates a very basic printing process. Critical thinking skills are used to judge commercial advertisements and students make decisions on what they will include, embellish and edit out of their own drawings to gain a desired effect.

Grades:

4-12 

Subjects:

Art, Graphic Arts, Aesthetics, Communications 

Suggested Time Frame:

1-2 class periods 

Objectives:

  • Students will examine visual and written data
  • Students will identify, describe and analyze Warhol's use of design elements
  • Students will use materials to learn the drawing/printing process and application of watercolor and goldleaf
  • Students will apply aesthetic decisions: color, line, etc. in their own work to create a particular visual impact
  • Students will predict marketability to intended audience
  • Students will establish criteria for successful advertising
 

About the Art:

Andy Warhol’s drawing The French Look is one of many shoe illustrations he created using a special type of line drawing known as the blotted line technique. Warhol first experimented with blotted line while still a college student at Carnegie Institute of Technology. He continued to craft this technique in his commercial work in New York City throughout the 1950s. Blotted line enabled Warhol to create a variety of illustrations along a similar theme. He was able present multiple drawings to clients and increase the likelihood that his work would be chosen for the final advertisement.

Blotted line combines drawing with very basic printmaking. Warhol began by making a line drawing on a piece of non-absorbent paper, such as tracing paper. Next he hinged this piece of paper to a second sheet of more absorbent paper by taping their edges together on one side. With an old fountain pen, Warhol inked over a small section of the drawn lines then transferred the ink onto the second sheet by folding along the hinge and lightly pressing or “blotting” the two papers together. Larger drawings were made in sections. Completing a large blotted line drawing could take quite a bit of time and multiple pressings. The process resulted in the dotted, broken, and delicate lines that are characteristic of Warhol’s illustrations. Warhol often colored his blotted line drawings with watercolor dyes or applied gold leaf.

Andy Warhol, Female Head, n.d., ©AWF
Andy Warhol, Female Head, n.d., ©AWF

Andy Warhol Quote:

 

I was getting paid for it, and I did anything they told me to do. If they told me to draw a shoe, I’d do it, and if they told me to correct it, I would - I’d do anything they told me to do, correct it and do it right.

Andy Warhol quoted in article by G.R. Swenson, “What Is Pop Art?: Answers from 8 Painters, Part I,” Artnews 62 (November, 1963) p. 26. 

Points of View:

 

Another reason why he liked it [the blotted line technique] so much [was that] by having your master drawing with which you made your blot, you could keep blotting it and redrawing it and blotting it each time and make duplicate images.

Nathan Gluck, commercial art assistant interview with Patrick S. Smith from, Andy Warhol’s Art and Films, UMI Research Press (Ann Arbor: Michigan, 1986), p. 311. 
 

It was absolutely true that he could draw anything and very, very quickly. And so we used him a lot.

Tina S. Fredericks, art director, interview with Patrick S. Smith, Warhol: Conversations about the Artist, UMI Research Press (Ann Arbor: Michigan, 1988), p. 100. 
 

Andy and I began a campaign, which was unprecedented at the time. We ran full pages, half pages, every Sunday in the “New York Times.” And it was a spectacular showcase for I. Miller and for Andy as well. It expanded his audience in a way that no magazine editorial ever could have. In a sea of tiny little images that were the pages of the Times, these bold blockbuster fantasies were extraordinarily effective. What the ads did was to revitalize and revive the I. Miller brand, and from a dowdy, musty, fusty, dusty, dowager establishment, it became a stylish emporium for debutantes.

Geraldine Stutz, art director, from an exhibition audio guide produced by Antenna audio in collaboration with The Andy Warhol Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada. 
Andy Warhol, Fantasy Shoes, ca.1956, ©AWF
Andy Warhol, Fantasy Shoes, ca.1956, ©AWF

Discussion Questions:

  1. Use adjectives to describe the lines and colors Warhol uses in his drawings.
  2. Does Warhol draw in all the details? What is left out? Why?
  3. What type of person do you think Warhol was trying to attract with these ads? Explain your answer.
  4. When you look at advertisements, how do artists and designers manipulate images to make products seem more appealing? Look through magazines to find examples to support your answer.
 
Procedure
Tracing paper, calligraphy pen and blotted line drawing 

Tracing paper, calligraphy pen and blotted line drawing

 

Materials:

Ink pens and nibsIndia ink Dr. Martin watercolor dyes 
Source images/magazinesPaper towelsTracing paper
Arches 88/Coventry Rag paperClear tapeGold leaf
Aquasize, gold leaf/Aquasize brushesWatercolor brushesPaint trays and containers
Andy Warhol, Hand Holding Leafy Branch, 1950s, ©AWF   
Andy Warhol, Hand Holding Leafy Branch, 1950s, ©AWF   

Procedure:

  1. Cut full sheets of Arches 88 or Coventry Rag paper into smaller sheets. Cut tracing paper to corresponding sizes.
  2. Collect a range of magazine source images: models, shoes, perfume, jewelry, etc.
  3. Select a source image then tape a piece of tracing paper on top of the image, tracing it with a pencil. Next, hinge the tracing paper with tape to the Arches 88/Coventry Rag.
  4. Opening the papers like a book, ink a small part of the traced drawing then lightly blot the ink onto the watercolor paper with fingers or the opposite end of the ink pen. Continue to ink and blot small segments at a time until the drawing is finished. Dr. Martin’s dyes or gold leaf can be used after the ink is dry to fill in the drawings.
  5. When using gold leaf, apply a thin layer of Aquasize on selected areas and wait for it to become tacky before placing pieces of gold leaf on top.
 
Assessment

Wrap-up:  

Hang up all of the drawings next to the original source material. Identify what you chose to include and embellish and what you chose to edit out of your illustration from the original. Assess the appeal of the products drawn with blotted line. Which drawings are successful, which are not? If there is time, make a series of drawings from the same source image with alterations to color, decoration and impact.

Warhol Education Rubrics

Click the Warhol Rubric headers below to reveal associated rubrics to which this lesson applies.

Aesthetics
Communication
Creative Process
Media and Related Items
Collection
Explore other works in our collection that use blotted line
Explore other works in our collection that use blotted line
Timeweb
Timeweb: 1955-1957
Timeweb: 1955-1957
Video
Watch the creation of a blotted line drawing