Inspired by Artists IV: Jackson Pollock

For one month I'm leading an art series for children, wherein they can learn, experiment, and create art pieces just as the masters did. If you'd like to check out the rest of the series, see the links below:

For the final week of the series we covered Jackson Pollock, a great participant in the abstract expressionist movement of the mid-20th century. I think Pollock, like Picasso, is a great artist for children to learn about because of the basic name recognition that even non-artsy people have with him.

For this session, I wanted participants to learn about how an artist like Pollock moved and used his body to create artwork. I'll be honest, the idea of paint flying everywhere did get me pretty nervous about this session. Because of that, I tried to work in some alternative methods of creating abstract art that wouldn't have kids flinging paint with abandon. This meant incorporating dipped-string painting and paint-blowing (using a straw).

Supplies Needed

  • Bristol board, cut into any size - I cut some into quarters so each child got 2
  • Tempera paint
  • Paint brushes
  • String or yarn
  • Straws
  • Dropcloth(s)

The Plan

Intro/Book - The dot by Peter H. Reynolds
This book is about, essentially, modern art. Telling the story that something as simple as a circle can be considered a masterpiece by people, I liked that this showed the kids that paint thrown on paper can be inspiring and different.

Demonstration - This ended up being the only session that I took time to demonstrate some techniques to the kids. I really wanted to include this because I was worried about the idea of them flinging paint around willy-nilly. I got everyone into smocks, then went over the ground rules before and after the demonstration. I showed them how to dip their yarn and swirl it on the paper to create different lines, and then showed them how to blow paint around using plastic drinking straws.

Activity - I went the typical Pollock route, and challenged the kids to create their own piece of abstract art. As I mentioned above, this was done in order to show how artists can use their own bodies and movement to create their work. If a child finished early, I offered them a second piece of bristol board to make a second piece - otherwise I got them cleaned up and directed them towards the books I had on display.

How'd It Go?

Pretty well, I'd say. It definitely wasn't the best or the smoothest of the four sessions in the series - but that was probably largely because of the method of painting that we were doing. They loved the idea of getting messy and using their brushes in different ways. In the same vein though, the fact that there was quick splattering happening meant that some of the kids finished much sooner than would've been cool. At the end of it all, I ended up reading the kids two more stories while some others continued painting.

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