Create your fluid art class

The techniques of fluid art in this class are, I believe, the easiest way to create beautiful art. That low bar make it a perfect way for “non-artists” to get excited about releasing their creative side. There’s also a scientific side to these techniques. People start experimenting. “What if I do this?”. 

How my class goes:

  • Before class, I prepare all the materials (see below), and test again that the paint is the right consistency to create dendrites.
  • I first have them drip a few blue drops, then I ask people to write their name in a paint pour on the canvas (and hitting the blue drops) — a way to practice controlling their thread of paint. (I pour. Pollack used a stick.) 
  • I give the rules of flow art:                         
  • 1) it’s okay to play.                                     
  • 2) Try not to touch the canvas (except with fingers — gotta get dirty). Let the flow happen, let nature created the artwork. You are just the facilitator.
  • 3) Improvise. Don’t have an end in mind. Drip intuitively.                 
  • 4) Make mistakes (mistakes don’t exist in flow art).
  • I then describe the materials.
  • By now, the students should be noticing the dendrite action. Have them continue experimenting: pour a few drops of yellow and blue in a line. Then trap these drops between two lines of paint. 
  • Varnish: Spray water on top of their name, then add a few drops of varnish on the water. The varnish will spread on top. Add a drop of blue ink in the very middle of each drop of varnish. In a minute or so, the ink will escape in stunning fashion.
  • Let them continue playing. After 15 minutes, choose one of two options (or if you have 6-10 people, split the group in two):
  • 1) Describe how, like the best sunsets, all art is ephemeral. Best to not get too attached to things. Pass a wide straightedge and a blank canvas to the first person. Have each in turn scrape the paint off their canvas onto the blank canvas. When all have done so, have a person angle the canvas to fill it with paint. Then cover with another canvas and separate, to show viscous fingering.
  • 2) Describe “Jazz Art”: Since flow art is a form of improv, then let’s follow the jazz method where various artists perform “improv solos” on the same artwork, building on what was done by the others? I have people rotate chairs and work on each other’s art for 3 minutes, then rotate again for 3 minutes, and so on until the person is back in front of their own artwork. There’s no reason art can’t be collaborative, just like music is.

The materials:

  • Flow art is messy. Provide big T-shirts / old clothes to people as an apron. The space will get messy, so you might want to cover the floor and table with plastic sheeting.
  • Canvas: I buy the cheapest old vinyl records I can find. I put a bit of masking tape on one side to cover the hole. People enjoy using records as their canvas.
  • “Ink”: I buy coloring from paint shops. I dilute with mainly water. I generally provide only buy blue and yellow coloring. (With red, the students will end up turning everything brown.) 
  • Fill a few eye dropper bottles with the diluted ink.
  • Paint: Buy a can of white paint with a satin or gloss finish. Mix the paint carefully with around 20% water. The amount of water you add is crucial to form the dendrites.  Test it. I usually mix a second batch of paint with 25% water as an alternative.
  • Fill food cartons half full with paint — one per two students. In Europe, I use cut tetrabriks.
  • Varnish: I buy two colors: cherry wood (orange color) and the blackest varnish
  • For varnish, I use small food jars with lids. To use, dip tongue depressor sticks into the varnish, scrape one side on the side of the jar, then pour drops onto the canvas. Fill a food carton with sticks and a few straws for people to experiment with blowing the paint around. 
  • Big pipettes. Fill a few food cartons with water and a bit of paint just to make it white, especially when painting on black records. Throw the pipettes in so people can squirt a bit of water.
  • Fill glass cleaner bottles with water, so you can spray water too. Varnish should only be dripped on top of water to let it flow. 
  • Scraper
  • Rags
  • Paint thinner to clean the varnish off the hands when the class is done.