Science Fair Project: How To Do Abstract Expressionist Paintings

 By: Morton L. Barish
Science fair projects on fine art is a virtually untapped area. Not too long ago, a Jackson Pollock painting sold for $140 million. This abstract expressionist work of art is said to be the highest price ever paid for any painting. When you consider that Picasso, and Chagall, and Degas and Rembrandt and so many other people of genius have thousands of works of art in galleries and private collections, and museums all over the world, why does a Jackson Pollock, nonrepresentational drip painting command such a sum of money? And just how did Jackson Pollock do his artwork? Great idea for a science fair project.

With a little understanding and a little practice, you too could do a Jackson Pollock type of nonrepresentational abstract expressionist artwork and perhaps also make a little money at the same time. It will be a good adventure for a science fair project as well. First of all you have to start with a little bit of attitude. Don't worry about whether the painting will be good or bad. Don't worry about whether it will look like anything. We have used the word "nonrepresentational" here a few times and that is the key to your success. Do not worry about your painting "representing" anything. Therefore the word "nonrepresentational". What we mean is that your painting will be spontaneous and reflect your feelings, attitudes and energy.

You are not going to copy a still life, or your dog. You are not going to do a flower, or a pastoral scene, or your kid brother. You are not going to try to use any subject for your painting. You are just going to respond to your feelings and energies and irrationalities. The technique used by Jackson Pollock to get paint on canvas is called drip painting. He is sometimes known as "Jack the Dripper". Pollock placed his canvas on the floor. You may use the floor or a low table. You do not need an easel. Your paint brush will never touch the canvas because you do not have to paint if you do not want to. Jackson Pollock filled his brush with paint and walked around the canvas with the paint filled brush and let the paint drip onto the canvas. If he stayed in the same place, the drip became big, and if he moved and swished his brush, he would get different effects. You can do the same. You can do anything you want. There are no mistakes in abstract expressionist painting.

There are many other tools that you can use to get paint on the canvas other than the brush. You can use a stick. You can use a small garden tool that is used when working with shrubs and plants. Like a small rake with three or four teeth. Just dip the teeth into the paint can and then let the paint drip on to the canvas. This will give you three or four drips at the same time.

You can use many different types of paint. I would not use any oil paints because they never seem to dry and they smell and hurt your eyes. Acrylic paints are fine. Use any colors that you wish. Black and white are good too. You can buy really inexpensive canvas on the internet. Start off with small sizes, perhaps 10" x 12" and work your way into bigger sizes as you gain confidence. Log in everything you do, and take lots of photos for your science fair project and display.
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