What Andy Warhol's 'Campbell's Soup Cans' Teaches Us About Consumerism

What Andy Warhol's 'Campbell's Soup Cans' Teaches Us About Consumerism

How 32 cans became immortal.
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Andy Warhol (1928-1987) was the epitome of an artist; he could transform anything and dabbled in a variety of techniques. A pivotal figure to the Pop Art movement, his work of art "Campbell’s Soup Cans" produced in 1962, extends beyond his resume to contemporary approaches of defining art and an attack on the vapid consumerist culture ravaging America.

Pop Art has laid its claim and become renowned for borrowing from other styles, artists, and countries. Embedded was a message that originality is dead and what we do now is but a mere replica of a distant form. Rather than reject this, people should come to terms with the reality of things, fashion, and art itself.

The 1960s movement proclaims that art can still be made, but to be self-aware and look to abandoned preconceived ideas of what constitutes an unconventional form for a canvas. It's a departure from longstanding traditions of what to represent or what can be a still-life model.

Warhol famously declared, “Everyone is an artist.” He stood true to his claims and rallied for others to create art from popular culture. Like-minded individuals adhered and followed suit. Cropping, manipulating color, distorting its transparency and other changes to a base advertisement took exhibits by storm. Warhol reproduced and contritely replicated an ordinary object recognizable to shoppers.

"Campbell’s Soup Cans" would find its debut on July 9, 1962, in the Los Angeles Gallery entitled Ferus. Each can has its own 20" x 16" canvas placed in close proximity to the other. First displayed on the wall like a painting, they hung just above shelves as a tribute to its real-life existence in a grocery store.

The number 32 is symbolic, stemming from the namesake company – Campbell’s Soup – who sold 32 soup flavors. Warhol refused the idea of selling each piece off, a surprising choice in a market where profit could be found in 32 sales. This would then be considered Warhol's official entrance into the Pop Art movement.

Instructions did not go further. Warhol did not indicate the artwork's procession. Often in art, rigid formulaic instructions are left behind to have everything in prestige place. It was Warhol's way of saying that art needed to change its approaches to things are done. Instead, the curators took the initiative and arranged them in row order of the date of each can's release. Its tomato can from 1987 would have the honor of kicking it off.

"Campbell’s Soup Cans" is a precursor to Warhol's later acclaimed style. Here, they have the look of being mass-produced from a hardworking printing machine up to its brim. But in fact, each image is hand-painted with a synthetic polymer. Warhol wanted to convey the look of them being fake to keep his vision churning.

The cans did have subtle variations, with its front product labels stating its flavor to spice things up. Nevertheless, they are identical to each other with a quick panning glance turning them into the exact same being. Upon release, criticism and parodies were spawned by the general public. Warhol's piece was dubbed a flop.

Outrage has formed, something not unknown to avant-garde artists. Calling for a decline in art academics and the critic circle alike, "Campbell’s Soup Cans" was seen as an intrusive force to the established longstanding world of art. There were standards expected to be held of what a painting was and meant. Warhol quintessentially bridges the idea that making art is equivalent to picking out a can of soup and deciding to eat it.

Another point of interest to the reactions is that this piece has no demographics, instead, it is made for everyone. This runs in contrast to other traditions, where audiences were narrowed down to recognize certain iconography or historical context. Here, anybody can read Warhol's paintings.

That is not to say Warhol's effort was as mindless as conscious consumption. In many ways, he is reflected in the cans. Warhol once said, “I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day, for 20 years, I guess, the same thing over and over again.” The repetition of his life is the same as the mundane patterns others engage in. "Campbell’s Soup Cans" grants him permission to grapple with himself.

Highlighting the disposability of items and inaneness in what gets deemed important via trendsetting movements, it became entangled in that. Ironically, the cans generated consumerist cult status and high-end fashion pieces dedicated to them. Can dresses were worn by the elite at the finest dinner parties and were seen on the biggest runways. Now, its influence is far-reaching and source material for rejecting high art.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Manning / Flickr

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The Key To Ending Your First Draft Blues

Or at least getting through the next chapter with your hair intact
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Ah, the first draft. We’ve all been there as writers. The day we decide to turn a blank word document into a 70,000 word (or more) masterpiece. Or, at least, that’s always the aim. Often as first-time writers, we go into the experience blind, learning as we go, and never really knowing whether what we’re doing is right or wrong.

It can be frustrating at times, as most first drafts are a test of sanity. As somebody who had written ten first draft books (nearing eleven) in six years, I have had my fair share of ups and downs when it comes to first drafts.

My first book ever took me four years just to write it, I started at the age of sixteen and finished by the time I was twenty. A year later I had written another. I then wrote one in thirty days, and nowadays I write about three to four books a year.

My point is, there is no science to writing. It is all about learning how to do it, and finding the methods that suit you best. I just wish I could have had someone to tell me all of that when I started.

With that in mind, here are my five pieces of advice on how to write your first draft:

#5 Embrace the Terribleness

The first draft is always the worst version of any story. The sooner you accept it, the easier it is to move forward with your work. So you misspell a few words so bad that even Word can't help you. That shouldn't stop you from going with the flow. Your dialogue will feel hammier than a "Star Wars" film, but you'll clean it up the second time around. You're not expected to create a masterpiece on the first go, so just enjoy the ride.

#4 Suffer for your Art

Writing can be hard. I've said it enough times already, but it's true. You have to be prepared to suffer for it. The reason my first book took four years to write was because I didn't commit to it. The reason I wrote 80,000 words in thirty days was because I committed myself to write at least 1,000 words a day. Now I average 3,000 daily. Is it painful to force 3,000 words to the page every day? Yes, but that's what you have to do to get the draft finished.

#3 Take your Time

Now I know this goes against what I just said, but it's important that you go at the pace you want to. I was happier writing 1,000 words a day, but I was eighteen then. At twenty-three, I'll never get everything done going at 1,000 words a day. Commit yourself to writing every day, even if its only 200 words. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. You'll get to the finishing line quicker if you jog a steady pace rather than adopting a sprint and rest mentality.

#2 Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Yes, it's important to remember what colour your character's hair is, which one is taller, and what weapon they are carrying. Although with that said, it is important to keep going forward. In my editing, I go over everything with a fine comb, often with a character profile at my side. Don't get bogged down giving every little detail the first time around, you'll have time for that later. The hardest thing is getting it down the first time.

#1 Keep the Story Going at All Costs

This kind of goes without saying, but it is by far the most important step for me. You have to keep moving forward. It doesn't matter if you have to use the biggest Deus ex machina to get your plot going again, you can always edit it away in the re-draft. I use a technique called automatic writing, which means that I don't plan every detail of a chapter. I simply write it as I go. This allows me to give my characters natural reactions as events often come as a surprise to me too.

Obviously it is good to have a rough idea of what is meant to happen, but as long as you can get your characters from A to B, then you are half way there. The other half will be polishing it to the point you can see your reflection.

Good luck, and happy writing.

Cover Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Writer%27s_Block_I.jpg

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4 Steps To Writing a Haiku

It's Fun I Promise
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You've probably had to write a haiku for English sometime in your school career. You most likely found it boring, or difficult, or just plain stupid. I am going to try and show you a more fun way to write a haiku.

1. The Basics: What You Should Know

In case you don't know, a haiku is a Japanese poem that is only three lines long. It is usually taught that the syllables in each line should go 5-7-5. But really, as long as there are 17 syllables or less in the three lines, it's a haiku.

2. Write to Get a Reaction

When you write a haiku, you are aiming to get one of three reactions: Aaaahhh, aha!, or ha ha! For example...

Aaahhh: Laying in bed/dog next to me under blanket/my furry heater

Aha!: Life is too short to love people/who do not deserve/your whole heart

Ha ha!: I'm on the toilet/and my stomach drops/the roll is empty

3. Create an Image

In your writing, you want to create a new image in your readers mind with each line. Take my first haiku for example. I first talk about laying in bed. Then, I say there is a dog next to me under the blanket, so you picture a lump under the covers. In my last line, I call him a furry heater so you imagine a heater covered in fur. The image you create is more important than the syllables.

4. Performing

Lastly, you need to think about performing your haiku. As always, when you're speaking in front of a room of people, you need to project so the whole room can hear you and you need to make eye contact. Another thing to remember is the tone of your voice while you are saying your poem. Dramatic pauses can keep people on the edge of their seat, waiting for what you're going to say next. You also have to remember to be confident! And if you're not confident, fake it till you make it!

Cover Image Credit: Imgur

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