Being Resourceful

 
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m fairly art-illiterate. I wasn’t even aware of Jackson Pollock (sometimes called “Action Jackson” or “Jack the Dripper”) until a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a short video (about four minutes) of him in action:
 

 

So when I saw Mike Venezia’s children’s book about Pollock on Amazon, I ordered it. It was worth it for the following quote:

Jackson Pollock always seemed to have trouble drawing things, too. No matter how hard he tried to make his drawings look the way he wanted, he just couldn’t. It was almost like his hand and pencil refused to do what he wanted them to do.

Jackson often became angry and upset, but teachers kept working with him, because they knew how much he wanted to be an artist.

I’m always on the outlook for inspiring stories, and Pollock struck me as a great example of

If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else.

Unfortunately the rest of his story isn’t so uplifting. He died in a one-car crash at the age of 44. He was drunk and driving recklessly — with two other people in the car.

Here’s a longer (about 56 minutes, if you choose to watch it) video of his life:
 

 
Quite frankly I thought the video was depressing. What about you?

On a cheerier note some teachers of young children are using variations of Pollock’s methods (some messier than others) to give the young ones the experience of creating art without knowing how to draw. That brings back warm memories of playing with finger paints and clay when I was little. What kind of arts and crafts, if any, did you do as a child? Do you think they’re an important part of education?

Thanks to Rummuser, Evan, tammy, Cathy and bikehikebabe for commenting on last week’s post.
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15 Responses to Being Resourceful

  1. Evan says:

    I think training the senses and giving people a way to express themselves is what education really is.

    The expression may not be through art (especially the traditional ones).

    In Aus art education was (and still is from what I can gather) just appalling.

  2. Ursula says:

    Jean, I do believe that crafts are a very important part of education, at home and at school. Because we learn to do something with our hands. Whether it’s sewing or turning a piece of wood. It’s useful. And I love the practical.

    Art? As in making it yourself? Not so sure. Art history, yes. Art theory, yes. Being made to look at art, yes. Just don’t make me draw or paint anything. It holds zero interest for me. Says she who comes from a line of people who not only CAN but do, and make a living off it. Says she who is surrounded by the visually creative, whether in painting or photography. Sure, I will draw you a caricature. Just give me a piece of paper and a pencil and something/one to ridicule and I am all yours. But that wasn’t taught. It just comes natural.

    I remember being given a project by our art teacher, I must have been about 14. Water colours. Dear dog in heaven. Despair was mine. So there I was at home trying to paint portrait of “A Pirate”. I mainly concentrated on the black eye patch. My father happened to look over my shoulder, declared my whole effort the rubbish it was and did something he’d never done before or since: Do my homework for me. His pirate was a beauty – Johnny Depp eat your heart out. Teachers, on the whole, are no fools: Mine took one look at it and said: “Ursula, tell your father that I will deduct one point off your excellent mark for both of you trying to deceive me.”

    If I may put one serious point, an opinion I have held from a very young age: We can’t all paint masterpieces, write a symphony from heaven. But what we can do is take the time to LOOK and to LISTEN. What is any artist without an appreciative audience? And that I am: An appreciative audience. I have stood in front of, say, Rembrandt’s ‘Nightwatch’ in Amsterdam. I was in awe. I had five minutes before catching a flight out of Paris and ran through the Louvre to find the Mona Lisa. A divine moment. And so on and so on and so on. Over the years. And, of course, I do adore Jackson Pollock. And I fully understand that he had to crash as he did. On the canvas of his life.

    U

  3. bikehikebabe says:

    I liked making paper mache or streets in perspective, where the street & buildings look smaller in the distance.

    Pollock looked 79 when he was 39 & he can’t seem to get enough of that cigarette, got himself killed very young. I guess his life WAS depressing. I want to look at the long video but later.

    I like Ursula on the last CheerfulMonk post:
    “PS Since you mention Jackson Pollock on your other blog: To me he and his technique is a symbol of what we all do: Throwing paint pots at the canvas of our lives.”

    U

  4. Cathy in NZ says:

    As some of you know around a year ago, I got into painting, drawing and other such things…struggling to make it look right, trying to make my tools with coloured stuff on the end of it be it graphite or a liquid thing – reveal that I could make a body, a face, a cat, even a horse!

    My hand/wrist refused to allow that, occasionally I did manage but finally I had to admit that I would have do abstracts – occasionally finding something actually turned out as something.

    I finally found a way to draw a bird which 99.9% of the time others see it just as a bird, even though the finer points never appear…

    I could easily replicate Pollock as long as the canvas was wide as in all directions but would I want to, I don’t think so…and I wouldn’t have the butts either!

    I do have two “art” things from my childhood, a handsewn felt elephant & a small pottery bow…

  5. Jean says:

    Evan,
    I agree with you that teaching people to express themselves should be a part of education. I’m not quite clear about what you mean by training the senses. And if we’re going to prepare kids for life they also need to develop some skills.

    As far as I can tell American schools are starting to become too narrowly focused on passing tests — way too imbalanced I’m pretty sure.

    Ursula,
    You should be pleased that this morning I download the Museum of Modern Art app for my iPad. It has several Pollock’s in the collection. I’m in the process of learning a bit more about modern art. On the other hand, in general I’d rather produce my own “rubbish” than just appreciate other people’s creations.

    In the past I did enjoy learning about art history. I do love history.

    bikehikebabe,
    That sounds like a good hands-on way of teaching kids perspective. Do you remember how old you were at the time? I remember making paper mache witches’ heads in the 6th grade (when I was about 11). We used crepe paper for the bodies as I recall.

    Cathy,
    There are a lot of possibilities, thank goodness. One no longer has to do representational art. I’m so glad you’re making some things!

  6. Evan says:

    Hi Jean, I meant things like training in
    looking eg drawing
    tasting – nutrition
    listening – music ed like Kodaly
    touching – massage, sculpture
    smelling – perfumes and such
    balance – feldenkrais, qi gong and such

    Skills and awareness ideally go together.

    Later there is training in
    thinking – analysis, design and so on
    relating – knowing your feelings, expressing them, listening to others feelings
    the particular path/art/craft that a particular individual wants to pursue

  7. tammyj says:

    i’ve enjoyed everybody’s comments. always makes it worth it to be late to the party!
    i’ve never cared for pollack. i find his work frantic and unsettling. and now that i know how his mental state was i can see why. all those people smoked so much! i guess everybody did back then.
    i don’t like surrealism. i do like most all of o’keefe’s work. i adore her. and i like david hockney. otherwise the modern abstract artists don’t appeal so much. oh. i like rothke too.
    i used to do pencil portraits of children. and i dabbled in acrylic abstracts… but recognizable as something usually. mainly for the fun of using color! now i never pick up a brush or a pencil. i enjoy blogging… reading and writing both!
    and i sure like yours monk. i usually always learn something!
    usually and always in the same sentence? LOLOL. they cancel each other out. :D

  8. Jean says:

    Evan,
    Thanks.

    tammy,
    All the smoking bothered me too. I’m glad I didn’t have to be there! Like you I love playing with color too. I think that’s why we both like Matisse. I’ve never seen a Pollock painting in real life. Apparently at least one of them gives a feeling of tranquility. I’ll have to stick with paintings that I can see in books or on the web. Especially the ones that makes me want to play too. You do your playing by finding those gorgeous pictures you use in your posts.

  9. tammyj says:

    it’s true! i’ve never thought of it that way! i’ve always loved great photography. an artform unto itself. bob did too. he once turned our garage into a dark room. he had the big tumbler tube and everything. he always fell for all the accoutrements! LOL. once i swear… i thought he was going to buy a multi-lithe press. he designed business cards for awhile just as a hobby. then he tied flies for fly fishermen. he could also draw. and he played many instruments by ear.
    i think people are just born artists. i do. ~ it’s like they MUST create. unlike we dabblers of the world. i’m a dabbler. but it’s fun too!
    and… bhb… to design clothes… from your heart and your head… with no pattern… well. the ultimate in art! i would LOVE to be able to do that. i’d never buy another piece of clothing.

  10. Jean says:

    tammy,
    Dabbling is good, and so is getting immersed even if one doesn’t have talent. It’s all good. (IMHO) :)

  11. Rummuser says:

    I find it depressing too. On the other hand, I find this very inspiring. http://www.ted.com/talks/phil_hansen_embrace_the_shake.html

  12. Cathy in NZ says:

    Rummuser, I have watched that talk by Phil Hansen a number of times, which I was sent when I was struggling to “embrace my own shake”. That is when I came up with an idea named H.O.P.E. which I relate to a special drug I take when doing art…Somehow I have managed to move on from it though, and I don’t have a problem with crooked things that begin to look okay in the final product :-)

  13. Jean says:

    Rummuser,
    That’s exactly what this post is about! Thanks. A lot of my own creativity was inspired by my own problems with my eyes not working “correctly”. That plus the depression I experienced in my early adolescence. Great motivators, blessings if used well.

    Cathy,
    I thought of you when I wrote this post.

  14. Cathy in NZ says:

    I just went to an Art and Innovation all day workshop yesterday and the Jack the Dripper turned up on one of the slides!

  15. Jean says:

    Cathy,
    That’s neat. :)

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