Mammoth Memory

American Kitsch – Excessive garnishes but in a humorous, knowing way

(Pronounced kich)

To help remember what American kitsch means, recall the following mnemonic: 

The big American fridge-freezer in the kitchen (American kitsch) is so excessively garish, it's almost funny.

The big American fridge-freezer in the kitchen (American kitsch) is so excessively garish, it's almost funny.

To create artwork representative of American kitsch, you can elevate already famous works from history by adding garish, decorative, bold embellishments to them.

One famous work we could look at is The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. It is one of the most recognisable images in the world therefore perfect to reimage in an American Kitsch style.

One famous work we could look at is The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Leonardo Da Vinci, The Mona Lisa, 1503-1506

In order to transform this, we need to start from a blank outline of the painting for our own. Use the Mammoth Memory grid method to draw a simple outline of the Mona Lisa onto your canvas.

Use the Mammoth Memory grid method to draw a simple outline of the Mona Lisa onto your canvas.

You now need to think about all things American kitsch. Bright colours, text, dramatic poses, decoration and ornament.

Think about what you could add to the Mona Lisa to adhere to this. Sketch new elements to your image, we have added physical objects such as jewellery, a hat and make-up. You can also think about the clothing of the time. The American Kitsch movement was around the 1950's so think about the lavish clothing that was famous then. These add a sense of humour to the composition.

Sketch new elements to your image, we have added physical objects such as jewellery, a hat and make-up.

Once you are happy with your sketch, draw it in place darker and remove the guidelines and any messy lines.

Once you are happy with your sketch, draw it in place darker and remove the guidelines and any messy lines.

When painting or using pencils to colour your version, think about the colours present in American kitsch art. Bright colours, garish, plastic objects were often used so try the same with your painting. The Mona Lisa in the original Da Vinci painting has pale white chalky skin; think about changing this to a bright, in-your-face colour.

When painting or using pencils to colour your version, think about the colours present in American kitsch art.

This technique could be used on any famous painting, here are a few more examples:

Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930

Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930

Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, 1484-1486

Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, 1484-1486

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