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  • Lauren Bennett

Making our DIY Pollock Painting

Here in Hawaii, we’ve been stuck at home for the most part, and Pierce and I could tell that it was time for a new project to pull us out of our slump. Years ago, we made our very own painting from the frame, to the artwork. It was so much fun, and so gratifying to complete, that it just seemed like the perfect time to do another large painting. It just so happens, that we have a little boy that is growing out of his nursery and will soon be growing into a more “big boy” feeling room. We decided to give his future room a push in the right direction with a Jackson Pollock style painting.

A little overview about Jackson Pollock: He was a modern artist that revolutionized the art world with his drip and splatter large scale paintings. The story goes that he would lay out his large canvases on his barn floor, and paint while he smoked. He liked how the paint had a mind of its own, while conveying the subconscious mind, and what happens when you let your body decide where the paint should go. He also liked allowing other elements that existed in his barn to become a part of the painting, like cigarette butts, flies, and dirt. In my art history classes, I always thought it would be an interesting exercise to recreate a piece like his and see just how hard it was to splatter paint on a canvas to get his results. Turns out, it’s not too hard, it just takes a lot of time.

Half the appeal of doing a project yourself is spending less money than you would if you bought the same thing new. I was shocked to find that if I bought all my paints, brushes and a canvas at the craft store, I was already three times over my budget. So, I ran out of there, and headed for my favorite place in the world: the thrift store. Within five minutes, I found my extra-large canvas, complete with a pre-painted bamboo scene for $20. Perfect!

Next, I headed to the hardware store, for paint. I knew we would need more than we thought, so I purchased a pint each of interior eggshell paint in yellow, blue, green, black and white. I chose these colors based on the colors I’ve liked dressing Oliver in, and I think that these same colors will translate well into a fun and masculine color scheme that can stay on his walls until he’s moving out of the house. I chose the eggshell finish simply as a knee-jerk response to what I usually select for interior walls in design projects. In retrospect, this finish wasn’t a poor idea, but I know it had an effect on how the paint dripped. I’d be interested to see how a gloss or semi-gloss finish would perform. Don’t overthink this part, just grab what you like. The paint was $92.00, more expensive than I expected. However, I had to remind myself that the acrylic paint at the craft store was much more expensive and sold by the tube and would have been more difficult to drip. I also learned halfway through the project that Pollock used paint from a can too, so HA!

Now we had all our supplies, and we could finally begin painting! The first step was to prime our canvas, and paint over the original bamboo art. We used some white tempura paint we had left over from our last painting, and it seemed to work well enough. Pierce painted on three or four layers of white until we couldn’t see the bamboo.

Once the priming layer was dry, we could finally begin the fun part. We laid our canvas down on our garage floor over some taped together garbage bags, and started splatting in layers of color. We took turns alternating who would paint each layer, and we even gave Oliver a try somewhere in the middle. You can tell by the pictures that our splatting technique changed and improved over time, and we got increasingly brave with our aggressive splatters and use of color in some areas.

Our pattern for our colors went like this: black, yellow, blue, green, white. I think the color pattern really began to matter on our last iteration, when we had to decide which colors we wanted to appear the most on the canvas. We were happy to land on green and white, and let the bright yellow, and the harsh black take a back seat. When we decided the painting was finished, we had splattered 10 layers of color, and it was drying with lots of texture. Who knows, we might have some gecko poop, or a fly stuck in one of our layers, I wouldn’t be surprised!

The key to making this painting look like artwork, and not a muddy mess was to ensure that every inch of canvas got the same amount of attention, and there was almost no base white layer showing through. We had to be brave and splatter the edges and corners as much as the center. This was a little bit scary, because we didn’t want to get any paint on our rented walls or concrete, but totally worth it in the end. And don’t worry, outside of a few drips on ourselves, we kept the paint on the canvas only.

I love how the final piece turned out, and it looks so perfect in Ollie’s room. Eventually, the rest of his room and artwork will all align a bit better with this new piece, but for now, it’s fun to just appreciate what we made together. I highly recommend this project to anyone looking for a cheap family art piece that’s worthy of hanging on your walls. It’s a good time, and a wonderful memory that we’ll keep in our family forever.

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