Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Paint Throwing

The 5's class experimented with the painting technique of putting paint and golf balls into a box lined with paper, then worked together to tip and turn the box so that the balls moved and mixed the paint, what we have in the past referred to as super-sized marble painting.

The following day I showed the dried artwork to the group, inviting them to share their comments. There was a general consensus that our finished piece reminded them of outer space. At one point, however, Duncan shared that it reminded him of paintings he had seen by Jackson Pollock, saying, "He put paint on his brush, then sort of threw it," demonstrating with a flick of his wrist.

I know a lot, if not most, preschools include some version of Pollock's technique as part of their arts curriculum, dripping or flicking or throwing paint onto canvases. We never have. The fact that I'm not a particular fan of the man's work probably plays into it a little, but it's not because we're mess averse. I suppose, in all honesty, it's primarily because "most, if not all, preschools do it" that has steered me away. Duncan's comment, however, put me face-to-face with my own arrogant snobbishness or whatever. After all, most of what we do is common preschool practice, from play dough to water in the sensory table, to unit blocks for building. So, as Duncan unknowingly shamed me, catching me out in my narcissistic neurosis, I knew we'd be giving it a go.

I chose outdoors for the venue, mainly because as Duncan described it, Pollock stood on a ladder and "threw" his paint, which is what excited several of his classmates about the idea. There was no mention of drizzling or dripping. This would be paint throwing.

The set-up was simple (another reason I'm continuing to kick myself for my precious sense of "specialness"). We lay a large sheet of mat board on the ground, diluted the primary colors in three buckets, set up our step ladders and stools, and handed out paint brushes.

And the paint did fly.

We figured out quickly that if you didn't want the paint thrown on you, it was best for all the paint throwers to stay on one side of the canvas, but since it was a lesson learned through experience, most of us went home bespattered, and worse. Duncan let us know at one point that Pollock was never able to "make the paintings the way he wanted them to look," an interesting bit of insight into the problem of adult artists, but one that didn't seem to matter to us. We were more concerned with the proper wrist flicking technique.

Our first canvas turned out looking quite a bit like work from the our inspiration. Our second canvas started out that way, until a couple of the kids climbed down from the ladders and began to swirl the paint with their brushes in the traditional manner. Our third canvas, the one that was created by literally throwing the brushes, wound up covered in wood chips and other debris, going directly into the recycling bin.

I myself went home after having taken a nice stripe of red right along the side of my head. I thought I'd gotten most of it out, but yesterday as I was discussing my color blindness with one of our Pre-3 parents, she remarked, "Are you saying you didn't know your hair is pink today?"

It's true, I didn't. And since I'm on a once every 3-4 day hair washing schedule, I guess I'll be pink-headed for at least one more day. Serves me right.

(This is the first year of our 5's class. If you have a 4-5 year old, live in Seattle, or know someone who does, we still have a few spots available. Contact to set up a tour.)

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JoAnn Jordan said...

You are a brave teacher but I love that you followed their lead.

Sarah at Easyread said...

Hi Teacher Tom!

I'd love to chat with you about doing a guest post on our blog - - where we blog about literacy, dyslexia, parenting and child health. If you're interested, let me know!

Sarah -

Jill said...

Teacher Tom, wow! This is only my second visit to your blog and it's fantastic. I just started working as an aide at what use to be my now first grader's co-op preschool, and your site has inspired me with ideas.

And then I read you are in Seattle. My husband's family is there and we often toy about moving but have landed in a great charter school here and fear I'd never find the same up there. If we ever do move I'm looking up your school -- I bet your parents would be great resources for tips into elementary schools in the Seattle area.

Thanks for sharing the wonderment with me.


Unknown said...

We love exploring artists as well, and this year I think we will take some of our Pollock painting outside.
One of our "Action Jackson" videos:

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