So, you want to make a Pollock piece, do you? Well? Do you… punk?
Anyways, when I started painting in early 2017, Pollock was one of the few reasons I started painting. In fact, if you read my story, you can actually see that despite that people don’t “get” his work, some are the most expensive paintings and sought after work in the world.
I’m obsessed with his work for these few reasons:
- No obvious subject matter – it forces the viewer to take in the whole piece for several seconds. It cannot fully be grasped in a single glimpse or glance.
- No where for the eye to rest – A piece like Pollock’s commands the eye to be run over many, many lines, splashes and spots. It basically pulls you along for a looping, never-ending ride.
- No matter how many times you view it – you can notice something new.
- Depending on the colors and size, it can pull a room together or contain focus all of its own.
While his work might have been (and still is) highly criticized by many for its technique, really, I think that it’s the technique itself that really makes it what it is. The technique is really what sells it.
And while 70 years ago, Pollock made waves with his drip and splash techniques, many have had the desire to replicate his work.
And now, so can you.
WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE A JACKSON POLLOCK STYLE PIECE
TYPE OF PAINT
First off, let’s talk about the most important piece: The paint.
Pollock used an alkyd oil-based gloss enamel. This is a very shiny, very thick paint that was used for extreme weather and wear applications like vehicles, bridges, and farm equipment.
Using this type of paint allows you to cover a large area very easily – easier than say normal (artist grade) oil paint – and creates a very vibrant image.
But, while oil-based paints were the norm 70+ years ago, since then latex based paint (and acrylics) have surfaced and even surpassed the availability of many oil-based paints.
Why? Latex is easier to work with and cheaper to produce.
Because of this, you basically have two choices:
- Seek out oil-based gloss enamel from paint dealers
- Use latex based gloss enamel
But what to do?
Here are some differences between latex and oil based than may help you decide:
- Easier to dilute – just use water
- Generally cheaper and more widely available
- Sets and dries faster, usually within 24 hours (in my experience)
- Not as toxic for your lungs or the environment
- More vibrant colors
- More time to manipulate (dries much slower)
- More manipulation options available (more ways to change the paint for desired effects using chemicals)
So what’s the winner here?
For me, it comes down to what’s readily available, and the look you’re trying achieve.
One of my favorite current modern artists, Swarez, uses ONLY oil-based gloss enamels that he special orders and manipulates heavily with chemicals. Based out of the UK, and he does some amazing work, but he’s even said that he really dislikes water based gloss enamel.
Me on the other hand, being in the Arizona (US) I actually don’t have a lot of oil-based gloss enamel options around me, so I use water-based paint myself.
This limits me on some of the things that I can do with it, but if you’re simply looking to match the similar style of Pollock, it should suffice.
However, I’m still experimenting with what additives can be used to alter the paint and still look beautiful. Will post future updates here.
Pollock used various colors in his paintings, but the two dominant colors in almost all of his pieces were black and white.
What’s interesting about this, is that black and white represent duality; light and dark.
There are other pieces where white and black are not the dominant colors, and most of this other pieces tend to use a lot of warm colors like yellow and orange, whilst others use light brown and turquoise.
While you can use as many colors as you’d like, it is argued that using fewer colors – usually 6 or less – can lead to stronger pieces. Of course, much of this is personal opinion, so take that suggestion as it it.
For me, I generally follow this rule, but every piece calls for its palette, so i do what I must.
First off, Pollock painted on unframed, unstretched canvas.
Some of Pollock’s paintings were done over other paintings. The others were done on raw – or unprimed – canvas. (Canvas that has no priming substrate, like gesso.)
While unprimed canvas gave Pollock some very cool and unique effects, the problem with painting on raw canvas is simialr to painting on an unprimed surface in a house:
After a set amount of time it will do one of two things:
- Eat away at the surface it is attached to and rot it
- Peel off/away from the surface due to lack of chemical bond and adhesion
The gesso that goes on canvas to prime it is just like the primer you need in house paint for it to stick to the walls for years and years.
Really, you can do what you want, but just keep that in mind when you create your own masterpiece.
STRETCHED OR UNSTRETCHED CANVAS
If you end up using unstretched canvas, that means youre buying a roll of it to paint on. This painting must then be framed or stretched later on.
If you buy it stretched (already wrapped around a wooden frame) then all you need to do is create your painting, paint the sides (if you choose to), and it’s technically ready to go.
I’ve done both and here are my results:
Unstretched is more fun and kind of easy to paint, but stretched is much more convenient. With an unstretched painting, you can mail it in a tube and have the buyer stretch it themselves, although some buyers dont want to bother with that. You also need some tools to stretch a canvas like a stapler, a mitre saw, and stretching pliers, along with the stretcher bars or wood to make them.
If you dont have the room, money for tools, or time to stretch your canvases, then dont. Many people are okay with painted sides. Especially with smaller pieces.
If you have the above, then try it – it’s really not THAT HARD, but it will take a couple hours (at least at first), The upside? You can paint the whole canvas and it gives the painting a 3-d look and feel.
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