Art Study – Jackson Polluck

Our homeschool co-op had an end of the semester art show and science fair. Throughout the semester we have studied 5 of the great art masters. The requirements for this show was to research the life and work of one we had already learned about or to pick a new one. The art work was to be done completely by the student and then presented for judging.20161206-img_9108

We started by learning all about Jackson Pollock. We really enjoyed both of these books Action Jackson and Jackson Pollock (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists) and walked away remembering a lot about Pollock’s history and how he painted. She picked out four of the most important parts to illustrate for her report. Then on to the painting.

I had a large roll of canvas that a friend generously gave us that was perfect for this project. Most of Pollock’s painting are pretty large. Eden was pretty excited to work on such a large scale. 20161201-img_8767

We learned that Pollock painted with his canvas tack down to the ground so that he could walk around it and paint.  Eden used natural elements to hold her work down and cut the canvas to 5 x 4 feet.

Pollock’s art studio was in the barn of this New York farm. For mess reasons I had Eden set up her studio outside. For being early December in Missouri, thankfully, we had nice weather for this outdoor project.


Ready to paint. She even dressed for the day in clothes and shoes that could get covered in paint.

We read that Pollock would use a mix of left over house paints and other additives like glue. Instead of leftover paint I had Eden mix her own colors using primary colors.  20161201-img_8793

I had hoped to have her try different additives in the paint but as we went I found the thinner the better and extra things like glue just made it too thick to fling, drip, and squeeze.


Eden started by flinging the paint. This was so much fun and was a great intro into the action part of the Jackson Pollock’s painting. 20161201-img_8799

She found that she could also let the paint drip from the brush.

20161201-img_8800To help vary the size of drips she tried different ways of squirting the paint. I was worried about having her squirt from the bottle of paint; that all the paint would be used in a couple squirts, so we used an empty mustard bottle.

20161201-img_8803She added water and shook it up after her first attempt resulted in a clogged tip.

Squeezing the paint from the mustard bottle was very rewarding. Paint came out in a nice thick stream and gave a varied looked to that of the splatters.


We didn’t plan it this way but I like that each new tool she tried out she used a different color of paint. This resulted in being able to clearly see the difference that each type of tool made. 20161201-img_8818

The book we read said that Pollock used a variety of tools to paint with including many things from the kitchen. Before we started Eden found this whisk and thought it might be fun to paint with. 20161201-img_8819

She also used a toothbrush and had hoped to use it to splatter the canvas but because we were working on such a large scale it was difficult to see the little drops. 20161201-img_8822

Instead she used it as a small brush to draw on the canvas. This was probably her least favorite tool.20161201-img_8832

Next we used an empty spray bottle with watered-down blue paint. This one was a lot of fun!20161201-img_8835

This is where she was after about an hour of work. We took a little time to stop and critique her work. Asking questions like: What works? Why do you like or dislike a certain part? What do you want different? Does it do what you were trying to do? 

She liked the splatter and the many different ways that the paint looked but she didn’t like that there was so much white. The more we talked about Pollock’s paintings the more she wanted her whole canvas covered with paint. She looked through her tools and decided to try pulling the paint that was already on the canvas around. 20161201-img_8844

Instantly she realized that where the paint had sat for awhile it had soaked into the canvas. When she pulled the extra paint across the surface it left darker areas of color and then filled in the white areas with the lighter version of the same color.


She liked this technique a lot and went over most of the canvas this way. She concluded that it must have take Pollock a long time to paint his paintings if he only flung paint.


She even got the toothbrush back out to help fill in smaller areas and add in more green.


After spreading the paint we had another critique session. She was happy that the canvas was mostly covered with paint, but she was a little disappointed that the colors weren’t as bright as when they were just splattered on. She decided to do another set of splatters on top and see if that helped.


By now I gave up trying to save the bottles of paint and let her use the paint at full strength straight from the bottle.


Eden remembered that Pollock would sometimes used his hands to paint so she decided if she walked on the canvas it would just be using her feet to give texture. I said as long as she was thinking about what she was doing I was fine with whatever she wanted to do.


Through the whole process I could tell she was really thinking about each step and why she was doing what she was doing. She wasn’t just throwing paint around, she was thinking about where each color should go and which way she should apply it to the canvas.


Besides helping her water down paint and open bottles, this whole painting was her work. The only real suggestion I had came at the end when we critiqued after the additional splatter work. She thought it still needed something but could not figure out anything else to do. I suggested that she maybe try adding either white or black. She decided to try black. 20161201-img_8898

It is days like this that I love homeschooling. I love the time that we get to spend learning and creating together.


Eden worked for a good two hours and finally said she was done as the sun was getting low in the sky and her teeth were starting to chatter.


Eden did pretty well staying clean besides her hands but we ended the day with a nice warm bubble bath.

img_1118The friend that gave us the canvas also gave us some frames that we used to stretch the canvas over. The frames weren’t large enough to hold the whole canvas so we decided to cut it in half and make two pieces. I regret this decision now and wish I would have built a larger frame but once it is cut there is no going back. Thankfully Eden doesn’t seem to mind.

She got to help with this part as well.

20161206-img_9113On the day of the art show she presented her paintings along with a display showing how she did the work, a four page report on Jackson Pollock, pictures of his work, the two books we used the learn about her artist, and her painting clothes (that she covered in paint) as her costume. 20161206-img_9108As the other students and parents walked around and voted for the art work, Eden and the other students had to talk about their artist and their artwork. 20161206-img_9115Both her and her best bud Rylynn tied for first place. I couldn’t be happier or prouder, they both worked very hard.


I was very excited to learn that the Saint Louis Art Museum had one of Pollock’s paintings and decided that this would be a great way to end our study. So for a Friday field trip we headed to the museum.

I was so disappointed when we got there and talked with the curator to find out that the Pollock painting we had come to see wasn’t currently on display.

The field trip was not a complete bust. We got to see lots of other great works by other artist we have been studying and learned museum etiquette. Eli might look sweet and cute in these pictures but he acted like any three year old would. We practiced walking everywhere, staying behind the line for viewing work, whispering to each other, and not touching anything.

img_1141Walking through the modern art hall Eden stopped and asked, “How is this art mom?” Eden and I got to have a nice discussion on what is and isn’t art. We talked about what we had learned with Pollock and how it may have looked like he just threw paint around, but when we did it ourselves we had to think and make decisions about composition, balance, and about what we were trying to say or the story we were trying to tell.

Driving home I was still bummed about not getting to see a Pollock in person, so I started searching for the next nearest museum that had one. To my surprise I found out that the Washington University Kemper Art Museum had a Pollock painting on display, and I called to verify. What is crazy is that this museum is located just a few blocks from where we were earlier that day.

We were already halfway home so we didn’t go that day but rather planned another art museum field trip for the next Friday.

This museum trip was a little easier as we had already set the expectation for a museum visit. This was a great view of proper behavior and everyone had a nice visit. We learned that about 45 minutes is just about right for a three year old.



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