In my last blog I talked about the regular appearance of Barbies in DP visual arts exhibitions. Following on from that – art styles/techniques that appear fairly regularly – an even more frequent offender is art that has been strongly influenced by the technique one particular abstract expressionist – and yes, I’m talking about Jackson Pollock, aka Jack the Dripper (1912–1956).

Each session visual arts examiners tend see artworks that are the result of a process of splash, spatter and/or drip (“I love Pollock,” says the candidate in the interview).

Personally, as an art teacher, I’m a little sceptical when students say they want to make a ‘spatter painting’, and suggest they do it at home if they really think it might lead to something great, and they also explain to me how the splash and spatter process shows evidence of technical competence (yes, I know, I’m heartless).

It’s not hard to understand why versions of Pollock appear with such regularity in every examination session.

There is the simple pleasure of just flicking your wrist and letting the paint fly off the end of your brush or knife and spatter joyfully, chaotically onto a canvas.

Alternatively stand over the canvas and let your paint drip and splash from jar or bucket. It can be pleasurable, relaxing, fun and even therapeutic.

Many students love the process.

spatter pollock3

Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist), 1950, oil, enamel and aluminum on canvas by Jackson Pollock – Taken by Cliff on Flickr

Of course, it can also be very quick – not got enough artworks and you need to present tomorrow? No problem!

2 or 3 simple versions can be yours in the course of an afternoon.

However, what is quick and easy is not necessarily good in terms of assessment, and I have to say that in most cases the one-off spatter painting does little to increase a student’s grade.

If you are determined to explore this idea/technique, a more productive route – and one far less travelled – might be to look at some of the other abstract expressionists.

There are many great things associated with abstract expressionism – visit the Met Museum’s online timeline relating to it – and there were many great artists in the abstract expressionist group – including

  • Willem de Kooning (1904–1997),
  • Franz Kline (1910–1962),
  • Lee Krasner (1908–1984),
  • Robert Motherwell (1915–1991),
  • William Baziotes (1912–1963),
  • Mark Rothko (1903–1970),
  • Barnett Newman (1905–1970),
  • Adolph Gottlieb (1903–1974),
  • Richard Pousette-Dart (1916–1992), and
  • Clyfford Still (1904–1980)

But for most visual arts students there seems to be only one who relentlessly inspires them – Jackson Pollock.

Abstract Expressionism at the Met: