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Inspire and create… Jackson Pollock

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By Brenda Whittle — Educational writer and former deputy headteacher (www.brendawhittle.co.uk)

Forget pretty pictures! Give children paper, paint and a place to create and just let them be spontaneous

American artist Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) is well known for his large-scale ‘drip’ paintings in which he dripped, poured or splattered paint onto canvases on the floor. He was a pioneer of Abstract Expressionism, belonging to the group of so-called ‘action painters’. Painting in this style liberates children and gives them freedom to just enjoy the painting experience, working spontaneously and without worrying about creating realistic images.

Splatter artwork

Splat attack: children will love painting in the style of Jackson Pollock!

Getting inspired

  • Make a collection of objects that children could use to apply paint to paper. Include straws, brushes, squeezy bottles, a watering can and plant misters.
  • Look at images of Jackson Pollock’s work, such as Number 6 or Blue Poles (Number 11, 1952). Explain that Jackson Pollock’s paintings were often very large – big enough to cover a wall – and so he painted the canvases on the floor.
  • Ask the children to try and work out how the artist created his paintings. Did he draw a picture and paint it with a brush? Invite them to think of items that they could use to create drip paintings without using a brush in the conventional manner. Pool your ideas and show the children the selection of objects you have already collected.
  • Explain that you want the children to use Jackson Pollock’s work to inspire them to create their own paintings. Give them time to try out their ideas on A3-sized paper, using ready-mixed paints or powder paints, mixed to a runny consistency.
  • Encourage the children to look at each others’ work and talk about what they achieved. Which methods of applying paint were most successful? Which effects do they like the best?
  • Explain that now they have all experimented on a small scale, the children can work on a large scale. Cover an area outside with plastic sheeting, and on it place several sheets of A1-sized cartridge paper stuck together. Provide plenty of paints, and let three or four children work on the painting at a time.

Step 1

Provide a selection of runny paints and brushes or sticks. Demonstrate how to drip paint from the end of the stick or brush, running one colour over another.

Step 2

Gently squeeze a washing-up bottle filled with paint to create lines. How does applying more or less pressure to the bottle affect the lines created?

Step 3

Try pouring diluted paint from a child’s watering can. This will allow you to create several lines at once.

Step 4

Dip your fingers in the paint and let it drip over the paper. Have a bowl of water nearby to wash hands in before using a different paint.

Step 5

Pour paint from a small tub, and discuss the way colours mix as they overlap. How much control over the paint does a tub offer?

Step 6

Demonstrate how to flick paint from a brush down onto the paper. Talk about the different effects achieved.

Step 7

Fill plant misters with diluted ink and spray onto the paper. How does their effect contrast with the drips and poured paint?

Step 8

Load the brush with paint and create straight lines by flicking paint sharply down onto the paper.

Taking it further

  • By encouraging and praising their originality, children will see that you value and are delighted by their ideas. This, in turn, will establish an environment where creativity can flourish. As far as possible, let children try out their ideas. Finding out and coping with the fact that sometimes things do not work out as expected is all part of the creative process.
  • Take close-up photographs of parts of the finished work and mount these together to make a new piece of art.
  • Drip glue over paper and sprinkle with sand, glitter and/or confetti.
  • Provide a wide selection of sewing threads and wools. Encourage the children to experiment in making overlapping straight stitches of different lengths, on hessian, to represent paint splatters.
  • Visit www.jacksonpollock.org and use your mouse to make a picture in the style of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings.
  • Round off the activities with a celebration. Make a sponge cake in a swiss roll tin. When cool, decorate in the style of Jackson Pollock using writing icing (available in the home baking section of supermarkets). Photograph and then eat the ‘artwork’, served with a selection of different coloured fruit juices.

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