Action, Jackson (Video)

Detail of drip painting: Black, blue, red, green, pink.
Number 5 by Jackson Pollock.

At some point in our lives, the modern art wing at the big museum in town has brought out responses along the lines of:   “Huh? Someone paid money for that?”  A painting with bunches of splatters and squiggly lines, such as the picture on the right, draws comments like,  “Big whoop. I can throw paint just like that guy.” 

A little back story.  The painting above is Jackson Pollock’s Number 5, 1948. The first quote was the actual reaction to the person who bought the painting.  Jackson Pollock is probably America’s most influential abstract artist precisely because he painted huge canvases with bunches of splatters and squiggly lines. “So what’s the deal with all the drips and splashes?”  Frustration.  Pollock was painting on the traditional easel, became exasperated, put the painting on the floor and poured some paint on it.  He refined the technique using inspiration from Native American sand painting techniques and murals he admired and voilà! A new art form.   

The media noticed and called Pollock’s style “Action Painting”.  Soon Pollock graced magazine covers; fashion layouts used action paintings as backdrops and whoosh! The Pollock method took off.  Since then, his process and style have altered approaches to everyday activities such as eating out and interior decorating.

You know, things that create happy times.

But this isn’t about Pollock or his cultural impact.  It’s about using the action painting process on an individual level, creating personalized works of art.  And you’re right.  You can throw paint just like Pollock.  It’s easy.  And cheap.   

Seated Woman in a Red Armchair by Pablo Picasso.

First, the paint.  Artist quality paint, the stuff of masterpieces, is expensive.  And gloppy.  We want a fluid paint that we can toss about with complete abandon.  Good old latex paint, the kind do-it-yourselfers use to paint walls and handrails, works wonders here.  “Wait a minute.  Serious artists don’t use that stuff.”  Not so fast. The painting on the left is Pablo Picasso’s “The Red Armchair”, from 1931.   He painted this gem entirely with house paint.

Here’s the good news.  Most home improvement stores have clearance bins of latex paint at seven cents on the dollar. 

Home Depot clearance paint.

Next, something to put the paint on.  Like artist’s paints, canvases aren’t cheap either, especially for a colossally fun project.  For an action painting, old sheets fit the bill or buy them at thrift stores.  If you want something disposable, butcher paper works just fine.  Most grocery stores will give you as much as you need for the project.

Turkey baster, flavor injector, a stick, brushes and chopsticks.

Finally, utensils to throw the paint on the “canvas”.  Anything will work here.  Turkey basters, flavor injectors, chopsticks-whatever’s handy (Food related items seem to work extraordinarily well.). Heck, Pollock sometimes poured paint straight from the can.  “Can I use my hands or fingers?”  Sure.  “Isn’t that just finger painting?”  Yes. 

Let’s approach the process from another angle.  The great comedian George Carlin described volleyball as “racquet-less team ping-pong played with an inflated ball and a raised net while standing on the table.”  Using Carlin’s analogy, we can describe action painting as “finger painting using extensions of the finger while standing on the paper and not touching the paper.”

The great thing is, action painting combines the individual acts of meditation, a cardio workout and creation into one serene, physical, and artful package.  Pollock himself said that he feels “nearer, more part of the painting…in the painting.”  Get lost in the process, let it become an escape, become one with the painting.  Walk on the canvas.  Squeeze.  Drip. Splatter. Fling.   Trust your instincts, transform simple movements into bedazzling refinement. 

Drip painting in front of chimney with river background.
Salmon with splattered sauces.

 “OK.  It’s finished.  Now what?”  The possibilities are endless.  You could sell the painting, of course.  Dripping and splattering are in the repertoire so dribble and squirt sauces like chefs do in five-star restaurants.

Action painting hanging in a living room.

You’ll also have artwork for the living room which is far more original and wallet friendly than the mass-produced decor for sale online or at a big box store.

At the very least, you’ll have a one-of-a-kind tablecloth for the next family function.

You know, happy times.

6 thoughts on “Action, Jackson (Video)

  1. Fantastic writing. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved the video. Art being created while I watch.
    Real motion, slow motion, fast motion.
    Great stuff.


    1. Thanks for the feedback! Glad you enjoyed the video!


  3. thelaconicwriter November 7, 2020 — 8:07 am

    Woah! I liked Carlin’s analogy! 👌👌👍👍👏👏

    Liked by 1 person

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