Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuesday's Art Adventure: Action Jackson

Here's an adventure into the work of a master artist: Jackson Pollock. 
Number One 1948, Terrain Gallery

Not only do I love Pollock's work, but I love showing him to kids (and adults for that matter) because their first reaction is usually, "Well, I can do that!" Heh. Heh. It's not as easy as it looks to create a great composition, but it sure is fun trying!

Jackson Pollock was an Abstract Expressionist. This movement was more about a shared attitude rather than a shared style, but in Pollock's case this means that his works of art did not represent an identifiable image (like a tree or a person), but his works were still full of emotion, impact and action. He created large works by fixing his canvas to the floor.

 Then he would use brushes and other objects to drip and splash paint across the canvas. He did not care about what side was "up." He walked all around the canvas painting from all sides.


Because of the movement both visually in the painting and the way in which he painted them these paintings are known as action painting. He began painting in this style in 1947.


  • tempera paint (I suggest picking 3 colors max)
  • large sheets of paper
  • shoestrings
  • water
  • large bowls, buckets, or containers
  • drop cloth (optional)

This is going to get messy. I like to do it outside for that reason, because I'm going to let you in a on little secret: your lawn doesn't really mind getting painted. It's true. But if you are stuck indoors, just put a drop cloth down.

Tempera paint cleans up pretty easily and it's affordable, but it's really too thick, so add one color to one bowl

and stir water in until you have a runny, watery paint.

It could be a bit thicker than this if you wanted. Just a guide, not an absolute.

Do this with each color you are planning to use.

Cut the fluglebinders (remember that from "Cocktail"?), the little plastic things, from the ends of your shoe strings 

and dunk one in each color, leaving a bit clean so you have something to hold.

Set up the paper. (I had to use some sticks to hold the paper down because it was a bit windy.) Use the strings to drip, slap, slosh, and pull the paint all across the paper.

The reason we use shoe strings instead of brushes is that we have less control.

It means that you just have to work with happenstance and get into the action of painting.

It's messy and completely fun!

Don't be afraid to teach your young child about artists. Many kids find it interesting and like seeing master works of art.


  1. This looks fun and simple enough for even me!! :)

  2. you are so right about this (teaching kids about artists.) they have some interesting insights at times. I saw a Jackson Pollock painting in Boston once.

  3. You should do some summer art classes for kids. I'd pay you to have my kids come to YOUR house to do this kind of stuff!

  4. Pollock inspired the real name of one of my kids...{love his work}...

    And that child is already into painting...

    Hope your blog buttons are working well!

    Thanks for linking up to Creative Juice, Jen!

  5. What kid wouldn't LOVE to do this? How fun!

  6. I wanted to do this last summer with my kiddos on an old sheet. I'll need to make sure we get to it this year!

  7. i just did a post on modern art. Come see.

  8. Jen, this post really speaks to me as a parent, and art enthusiast, and a fan of JP. What a wonderful way to introduce a child to art, and to familiarize them with an important art movement as well!

    I agree, people are so often dismissive of Pollock's work. You did a wonderful job of explaining Abstract Expressionism, and shining a light on what made Pollock unique and important. I love the photos of him working on his paintings.

    Thank you so much for linking up to "A Little Birdie Told Me..." at Rook No. 17!


  9. So cool! We will definitely be doing this at our house this summer. :-) Thanks so much for sharing it at the Block Party!

  10. This looks very easy and fun! Thanks for the idea.

  11. What a great idea! So much fun for the kids and educational...the prefect combination. :) Thanks for sharing it with us at the Summer Block Party.


  12. Teaching kids about master paintings and famous artists is itself a great idea...!!!

    Love it... Looks like your kid had a great fun time ..!!


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