Jackson Pollock is a fun artist for children to learn about. He used his whole body with large motions when painting, hence the nickname, Action Jackson. I found a wonderful children's book about Jackson Pollock at my local library. The book, Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan is very lyrical and beautifully written with delightful ink and watercolor illustrations. The story gives children (and adults alike!) a wonderful glimpse into the life and work of Jackson Pollock. It includes a brief biography at the end and resources to learn more about Pollock.
I read the Action Jackson book to my class and then showed them some examples of Pollock's work. Check your local library for books that include photographs of Pollock's work or look for books that include various modern artists including Pollock. I concentrated mostly on Pollock's drip paintings, but showed examples of some of his other work too. An internet search will give you many examples of his work that you can show your students. This website has some good examples. Make sure to show your students Lavender Mist. Also, show some photos of Pollock in action painting. You can find some good photos HERE.
Photographer Hans Namuth gives a vivid description of Pollock at work in the book Pollock Painting (1980):
A dripping wet canvas covered the entire floor … There was complete silence … Pollock looked at the painting. Then, unexpectedly, he picked up can and paint brush and started to move around the canvas. It was as if he suddenly realized the painting was not finished. His movements, slow at first, gradually became faster and more dance like as he flung black, white, and rust colored paint onto the canvas. He completely forgot that Lee and I were there; he did not seem to hear the click of the camera shutter … My photography session lasted as long as he kept painting, perhaps half an hour. In all that time, Pollock did not stop. How could one keep up this level of activity? Finally, he said 'This is it.'
Pollock’s finest paintings… reveal that his all-over line does not give rise to positive or negative areas: we are not made to feel that one part of the canvas demands to be read as figure, whether abstract or representational, against another part of the canvas read as ground. There is not inside or outside to Pollock’s line or the space through which it moves…. Pollock has managed to free line not only from its function of representing objects in the world, but also from its task of describing or bounding shapes or figures, whether abstract or representational, on the surface of the canvas.
For our project I had my students create their own drip painting. I had been doing a 6 week session on modern artists and I think the kids enjoyed this project the most. I gave each student a large white sheet of poster board. We took them outside (this is definitely a project to do outside unless you have a big art studio that you don't mind getting messy!) and placed the poster board on tarps and cheap plastic table cloths on the ground. We placed the less shiny side of the poster board up so the paint would stick better. I poured some regular poster paint into small buckets and added a little water to make the paint thinner and easier to drip. I placed a paint mixing stick (but a paint brush would work fine too) in each bucket and put all the colors on a table. Each student could grab a color he or she wanted to use and fling and drip onto the poster board. The kids had a so much fun with this project and even my most reserved students really got into the project and were smiling and laughing by the end. The results were fun and beautiful. After the paintings dried each student took them home to enjoy.