Lesson Plan on Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism Painting
Abstract Painting, Public Domain (CC0) , via Rawpixel

Growing from Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism combines the emotional intensity of expressionism with the abstract European forms of art like CubismFuturism, and Bauhaus. The term applied to new forms of abstract art developed by American painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning in the 1940s and 1950′s. It is often recognized by emotional brush-strokes or mark-making, and the idea of sudden change and action. 

At home, you can create an action painting just like Jackson Pollock! 

Learn new vocabulary: Convey, Intensity, Spontaneity

Tool Kit:A canvas or thick piece of paper, and paint of several different colors.


Step 1: Look online for different Abstract Expressionist art and artists online. I know the term is a handful so try and look for certain artists, the most famous and easy to find being Jackson Pollock. Here is a video explaining Pollock’s work.

Step 2: Analyze the art by asking yourself the following questions: How do these artists show their emotion through such strange methods? What colors do they use to show how they are feeling? What tools do they use to splatter the paint on the canvas?

Step 3: Take your canvas or paper and place it somewhere it’s okay to be messy. Choose two or more objects to paint with that you think would have a cool effect, and start painting. If you want it to be bright and happy, try moving your painting object quickly and using brighter colors. If you want it to be slow and sad, try moving your objects slowly over the canvas and use darker colors. Be sure to experiment with how you fling the paint onto the canvas to find new and exciting patterns!

Group Activity: Show off your action painting to your friends and family. Do they see the emotions or ideas you were trying to show? If not, try and teach them about it! They might find the action painting very interesting.

Extend Your Journey:Try and create different kinds of Abstract Expressionist art. There’s a wellknown action painting, but there is also the color field painting, where artists cover the canvas in huge chunks of color to show emotion. Which do you end up liking more?