Jackson Pollock

Here are my homework pieces for the week:


So here was the week I suspect most of us were looking forward to. Every one knows of Jackson Pollock, or 'Jack the Dripper 'as he affectionately became known!

The work he made in the last 5 years of his painting life is the work he is most recognized for, but it was interesting to learn just how talented the man was at other styles that resonated with a surrealist or automatic style of painting. He was indeed very talented and over the week studying him and his work, I realized I liked his mid career work the best.

This YouTube compilation has some of his lesser known works on show

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NW10hVJOiA8]

I think we all began the week feeling quite optimistic about the ease of replicating the 'drip' style paintings, little did we know just how controlled 'Jack's drips were! When in the studio, enamel cans open and paint brush handles ready for dipping, it became evident that one needs to be acquainted with the viscosity (thick/thinness of the paint and how it flows) before one can guide the picture in any shape or form. The enamel seemed to have a life and a will of it's own. Left too long in one spot and a pool would develop, travel too quickly and you would only have fine spaghetti straps that laced on the canvas. If you used 'raw' (unprimed) canvas (as Pollock often did) the enamel would soak right through and stain the floor underneath (ooops!) and it would bleed into the canvas giving the paint a halo edging to the paint that did sit on top and a thickness to the lines I didn't anticipate.

I ended up priming my canvas with a little bit of acrylic paint from my daughter's toy box and then later adding some dry pigment from her collection of paints as well! The enamel on it's own wasn't giving me the rich effect I was looking for. It didn't help that my local store only had black and white enamel and I hadn't allowed time to order enamel online. So a mixture of paint sources contributed to the works I made. This was very Pollock in nature anyway, as he was known to add everything from 'skins' of dry paint to cigarette butts at times! Some of my fellow students added personal objects under the layers of enamel that dried into what amounted to a treasure map of items!

I must admit though, after my first couple of efforts didn't work out the way I had hoped I was ready to give it up. My husband came into the studio to see what I had done and gave me 'the look'. I explained it just wasn't working out, he pressed me to go on. I am glad he did. The addition of the dry colored pigment really made a difference to how they ended up.

In studying Pollock, I also became familiar with his wife, Lee Krasner, an artist in her own right, but perhaps lesser known. She devoted a great deal of her time to caring for her husband and his depressive tendencies, so I imagine she didn't get to focus on her own work as much as she may have liked. On visiting MoMA recently, I saw two of her works and fell in love! She had a unique abstract style of her own.

Here is a YouTube link to a compilation of a few of her works

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbSRSIfu-ag]

It was a shame to learn that part of the building up of Pollock's career may have been part of what derailed him in the end. The commercial success he had with the 'drip' paintings, and the media attention and hype that followed destabilized an already fragile personality. He felt the way in which his work was being used ( for example in a Vogue magazine layout as a back drop to the new fashions) cheapened his work and he rebelled against the very machine that brought his work to public notice. His darkening depression saw increasing bouts of drinking, in which apparently, he did not paint. His untimely death caused by car accident came a year after he had stopped painting.

I wonder if he hadn't died if he would have been able to reconcile with all the attention and get back on track with his own exploration of paint.