Inspired by Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock was an American painter, famed for his technique of pouring, drizzling, and dripping paint onto a flat surface. The wide gestures used in his works created an almost three-dimensional effect, and this process was sometimes referred to as ‘action art’.

Looking at Pollock’s works, we were touching on level 3 of the New Zealand curriculum in visual arts: investigating the purpose of images from past cultures and identifying the contexts in which they were made. This did look like an enticing project for students, until the thought of flying paint splattering the classroom walls forced the creation of a new plan. First, we looked at this video clip, explaining how Pollock created his action art. We then watched this being done using digital technology on a busy street in New York City. This was something we could definitely achieve.

Integrating digital technology with art and inquiry, we used 10 Sphero robots and connected them to iPads. Success criteria were co-constructed - Mr Ross showed us how to use the heading, speed, and duration block to create some basic codes for movements. Students were thinking about direction, use of degrees, and velocity. An additional challenge we agreed upon was to figure out how to roll the Sphero in curves and loops, rather than just straight lines.




With minimal teacher input, students were creating their collaborative codes. Some took turns, others worked together. Students were participating and contributing, relating to others, and using language and symbols - all key competencies in action. They were also using progress outcomes in computational thinking, meaning students were working within an authentic context to create algorithms, identifying and correcting errors.



What’s it doing? It needs to go for longer! We’re painting it. It’s so cool. Look at that - we did a curve! It did a curve. We need to make it do a 180. And we need to make it go a different direction every time. It goes forwards and does a 180 and then goes backwards. - Cameron and Bobby

It’s skidding and doing wheelies in the paint. I think it may be stuck. - Nick

We drew the infinity logo! - Luca

I need to aim it. I forgot to aim it. It needs to go a bit faster. Go faster! Put it to full speed. - Harrison

Change the speed. That’s too fast. It went the wrong way. - Manaia

Have you got paint on these before? Can you even wash them? - Zoe


One of the most pleasing results was that the box we used to enclose the Sphero became a work of art itself. Students were excited about this and decided to display the box and sign it, surrounding it with their action art creations. It was a fun afternoon, full of discussion about colours and coding, and no Room 5 walls were harmed in the process.

Watch our action art in action here.

------------------------------------------Keywords: Sphero, Digital Technology, Visual ArtCurriculum links: L3 Art - Understanding the visual arts in context, Digital Technology computational thinking PO1, PO2, PO3 

2020 R5 DT DigitalActionArt2