Friday, February 23, 2007


The explosive, energetic, colourful paintings of Jackson Pollock make for exciting art lessons that take very little preparation and engage students from the word go. Some of the best artwork to be produced in my years of teaching has come from this project - Pollock Action Painting. Also known as 'drip painting' because of his technique of literally dripping paint on the canvas.

There is a large number of Pollock monographs available, as well as an excellent biopic starring Ed Harris, a link to which is supplied on this page. Happy dripping!

For beginners through to advanced
2~3 contact hours in class, extra time for web research/homework
Lesson aims:
  • Students will be able to create painting in the authentic style of Jackson Pollock
  • Students will develop an understanding of the use of body movement and momentum in painting.
  • Students will learn about the origin of Pollock's technique and the milieu it came from.
  • Pollock monographs or 'Pollock' DVD featuring Ed Harris as the painter (contains some excellent painting scenes, especially when Pollock accidentally discovers his drip technique in January 1947)
  • Large paper - about 100cm x 60cm
  • Pet bottles, sticks, old brushes with no bristles, old cloth etc.
  • Newspaper and masking tape
  • Optional: plastic straws
  • Special 'liquid' paint available in most art supplies catalogues
In Class Lesson Stages:
  1. As a lead-in I prepare a slidehow of Pollock paintings against a background of jazz music from the time he was working - he was a big Benny Goodman fan. Encourage students to speculate on what they see - who was he? when did he work? what technique did he use? what are the themes of his artwork? Students should always be reminded that at this stage there are no wrong answers - their own first impression is uniquely theirs.
  2. It would be a good idea at this stage to show the painting scenes in the film 'Pollock' starring Academy Award nominee Ed Harris.
  3. Depending on available time, students could at this stage begin on a small scale with A4-size paper on top of newspaper to practice the drip technique. Demonstrate the different effects of dripping paint from sticks, brushes, sponges, clothes, and...500ml pet bottles with a hole made in the cap. Remind them of the scenes in the film where Pollock was actively engaged with his canvas, always placed on the floor, and continually moving round the piece as he sought different perspectives on the painting as it was created.
  4. At the beginning of the second lesson students should be competent in using the liquid paint and have some control over its application. An interesting dynamic to introduce at this stage is asking students to form groups and create one piece amongst 3 or 4 members. Popular themes in my art classes have been the seasons, emotions, dance, spirit, festivals, music. Choosing an assortment of jazz music to play in the background encourages students to 'get into' the mood of the painting. Music plays a large part in my art lessons.
  5. As student's work nears completion they should be encouraged to view and evaluate each others work. Ask students to consider the idea of 'completion', and the stage at which they think their action painting has communicated what it intended.
Evaluation and feedback should take the form of constant peer evaluation of each others work, as well as summative evaluation of how well each group has communicated their theme through the use of colour, line, contrast, and other elements of design.
  • Originality 1-2-3-4-5
  • Authenticity 1-2-3-4-5
  • Elements of Design (colour, line, shape, contrast) 1-2-3-4-5
  • Participation 1-2-3-4-5
Check out the links to Amazon's extensive catalogue of art books and artist biopics. The movie 'Pollock' by Ed Harris is an excellent biopic and engages students with the subject right from the word go. I highly recommend its action painting scenes.



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