From Commercial Artist to Celebrity - Warhol

From Commercial Artist to Celebrity - Warhol
Some commercial artists (ex: Warhol) have gained celebrity status in the industries of art or music.
I will discuss those artists who may not have taken a brush to canvas, but instead used pencil/pen on paper, or created their work electronically to create iconic art.

The definition of 'commercial art' is: "The art of creative services, referring to art created for commercial purposes, primarily advertising."
A commercial artist can specialize in disciplines such as: graphic design or illustration.
A graphic designer creates artwork and layout, where an illustrator creates images for advertising used in books or magazines.

Internationally we recognize a red sign with white letters as a "STOP" sign. Is that a work of art?
What about a logo or company ID that is widely recognized, is that commercial art or fine art?

Tom Geismar may not be a household name, but his iconic images - spanning 50 years - are widely recognizable. Geismar is a graphic designer who created images that have infiltrated our world and lives in both a cerebral and emotional way.
The very images we may encounter on a daily basis were designed by Geismar: "T" for subway station, "XEROX," "Mobil," Chase Bank’s octagonal logo, PBS logo, and National Geographic’s gold framed book (my personal favorite), to name a few.
Geismar is also credited with creating exhibits for US museums such as: the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, the Jefferson Library at Library of Congress, the Statue of Liberty Museum, and the Holocaust Memorial at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Robert Indiana (né Robert Clark) created the "LOVE" image in 1966, referencing his Christian Science upbringing with the words "God is love." He painted the iconic image of an Indiana blue sky (his home state) behind the red and green letters of "LOVE" that reminded him of Philips 66 gas – where his father worked.
As fate would have it, Indiana’s father passed away the year he began the "LOVE" image.
He considered his 'stenciled letters' (used by graphic artists, although he was not one) as 'hard edge' and not in the category of Pop art where he was positioned.

One of my personal favorites of commercial images is the red # "9" sculpture on 9 W 57th Street in New York City - designed by graphic artist Ivan Chermayeff in 1974. It stands in front of the Solow Building – a testament to commercialism in his use of a recognizable numerical image.

Perhaps the best known commercial illustrator who became an artist with celebrity status was Andy Warhol. He studied commercial art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, PA.
After moving to New York, he began a career in magazine illustrating and advertising, becoming known for his ink drawings for shoe advertisements.

Warhol transitioned from a commercial artist to a fine arts artist with his silkscreen printmaking to become a leading figure in Pop art.

A few celebrities who (surprising to me) were originally commercial artists are: Pete Townshend from the musical group "The Who" who studied graphic design, and singer David Bowie who studied same in the early '60s.

You can own a photo jigsaw puzzle of Ivan Chermayeff's Red # 9 sculpture in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, available here from

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