DAILY PAINTING 24 – DRIP PAINTING

Drip Painting painted according to the directions for the example in the book 50 Small Paintings, 6" x 6"
Drip Painting painted according to the directions for the example in the book, 6″ x 6″

The painting above is my 24th painting exercise from the book Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. This lesson is about redefining the brushstroke, but to me it is more about how this type of technique has redefined what it means to be an artist.

In the past century, the definition of what constitutes an art work has become so vague that not many people could say for sure what it is. As an art teacher, I had to come up with a working definition to use in class and it is this:  if a thing involves the act of conscious designing on the part of a human being, it is art.  It may not be good art but it is art.  This definition eliminates accidents and animal art – although those make good-selling novelties.

Drip painting is a form of Abstract Expressionism called Action Painting that embraces a variety of methods other than brushes to get paint on canvas.  My favorite action painter was the Japanese artist Shozo Shimamo who filled balloons with paint and fired a small hand-made cannon at them.  Anyway, the idea behind all of this experimentation was that the act of painting was more important than the resulting product, an idea which has gained a foothold in our culture.

Also people have become more accepting of the products of Abstract Expressionism.  For example a blog called doiydesign.com has some nice looking products for sale called Pollock Trend. They have such items as cooking pots and tennis shoes all beautifully decorated with spattered paint.

Jackson Pollock – also known as “Jack the Dripper”  is most famous for the drip technique although he wasn’t the first artist to employ it in his work.  He would lay a large canvas on the floor, drip paint on it until he was satisfied, cut out the part he liked best and stretch it onto a canvas. So here’s the question: Is that art?  Based on my definition above, it is, simply because he chose the colors, he decided where to drip the paint, and he chose the final composition. Is it good art? That’s a matter of great contention among art lovers.

Below are a few of my “experiments” with drip painting.  The author recommended staying with analogous colors to make the work more unified.

Deanna Williamson, Pinkish, 6" x 6", acrylic painting on canvas
Deanna Williamson, Pinkish, 6″ x 6″, acrylic painting on canvas
Deanna Williamson, Bluish, 5" x 7", acrylic on canvas, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Bluish, 5″ x 7″, acrylic on canvas, 2016

My problem with this sort of reduction is that it’s taken away the uniqueness of what it means to be an artist because “anybody can do it,” right? Used alone, the drip technique is accessible to anyone.  However, there are some like Henri Lamy who have incorporated it into their work as a successful textural component. I put it in the background of my cat painting below.  Actually these are more like spatters than drips but it’s hard to make small drips on a 5″ x 7″ canvas.

Deanna Williamson, Meeps, 5" x 7", acrylic on canvas, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Meeps, 5″ x 7″, acrylic on canvas, 2016

This is sweet Meeps who is sojourning with us until his family takes him to Texas.  I used a palette knife to paint the cat and then masked him off and spattered his surroundings.

Here are couple of notes about the process.  First, I had to order a special brush from Blick– an egbert which is a filbert with really long bristles. You don’t have to have one to drip paint but it helps because it’s really floppy. Second, drip painting takes longer than you  might think because of drying time between layers. Third, once you get started doing this, it’s hard to quit! Below are some more- but not all – of my experiments.

Marbled looks like marbling, but it was made by turning a bunch of almost empty bottles upside down in a dish drainer over a piece of canvas and letting the paint drip and flow wherever it wanted.

Deanna Williamson, Marbled, 6" x 6", acrylic on canvas, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Marbled, 6″ x 6″, acrylic on canvas, 2016

I employed an eyedropper to help with Flower Drops and manipulated the drops with toothpicks to create the star-shaped centers of the flowers.

Deanna Williamson, Flower Drops, 7"x 5", acrylic on canvas, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Flower Drops, 7″x 5″, acrylic on canvas, 2016
Deanna Williamson, Reddish, 7" x 5", acrylic on canvas
Deanna Williamson, Reddish, 7″ x 5″, acrylic on canvas
Deanna Williamson, Sun Drops, bookmark
Deanna Williamson, Sun Drops, bookmark