Fine Art for Kids: Primary Pollock

 - by Sarah Lipoff

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Although spring is in the air, the weather outside is still a bit cool. So, the other day when the babe woke up from her nap and it was drizzling outside, I knew we had to figure something out to fill our dreary afternoon. Toddlers may not be able to do much as far as art projects go, but they sure know how to make a mess. And I know of an artist that also knew how to make a big mess with awesome results.

Jackson Pollock.

Pollock hit it big in the mid 1940’s with his drip and drizzle method of painting on large canvases flat on the floor. Instead of using brushes, he would pour paint directly from the can, or use a stick or spoon to drizzle all over the place. No one else was really doing this style of abstract painting, and Jackson Pollock had an artist attitude to match. He was grumpy, kept to himself, liked to drink and have a good time. Pollock took painting to a whole new level, sharing with the viewer a place both chaotic and comforting. Although it may have seemed Pollock had no plan for his paintings, the amazing combination of texture, line, and balance creates artworks that completely work.

Often, Pollock worked with darker shades of color alongside one color to create contrast. One of my favorites, Blue Poles: Number II (1952) has areas of dark browns, blacks and gray, making those reds and yellows really pop. I shared the picture with my wee tot and then got out the paints.

I figured we could explore the simplest combination of colors – the primary colors! Red, yellow, and blue mix together to create any color combination imaginable, and why not use Jackson Pollock as influence for creating a really fun art activity? I figured we could get a bit messy, make something special together, and learn about color theory at the same time!

Before we got started, I cleared our work area of other items I didn’t want paint-covered. If you don’t have a dedicated art project area, you can always put down a couple of sheets of old newspaper or a large garbage bag over the kitchen table. It’s not a bad idea to cover yourself and your child, too!

Now get out the red, yellow, and blue tempera paint along with three paintbrushes. You can pour a small amount of each color of tempera paint in a small dish and add a couple of drops of water. Your child can use one paintbrush for each color and mix the paint and water together.

Offer your child a sheet of paper. But, before getting started, help your child fold the paper in half. Along with exploring mixing colors and dripping some paint like Pollock, your child will learn more about symmetry! Symmetry is when things are the same on both sides – just like butterfly wings. Encourage her to drip paint on one half of her paper, using her brush to drip and drizzle each color of paint.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Invite your child to fold that paper back in half and gently press on the top of the paper squishing the paint all over and mixing it together. Now she can open the paper and see what interesting design is left!

Our finished creation reminded me of a spring bug. If you’ve got an older child, once her primary colored symmetrical Pollock is dry, offer her a black marker and she can use it to outline the shape of a butterfly or other interesting bug, just like the ones popping up all over this time of year!

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

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