Stripes With Gravity

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How can you paint with gravity? Explore the beauty of pure, flowing hues with this abstract method of coloring paper.


  1. 1. Morris Louis, who was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on November 28, 1912, was an artist who was profoundly influenced by Abstract Expressionism. His early work has been compared to the work of Jackson Pollock, who used layered drips and pours of paint to build complex surfaces. Abstract Expressionists were interested in creating work that was nonobjective (had no recognizable subject matter). They preferred to work emotionally, and their work is usually abstract and personal.
  2. 2. One of the most profound influences in Morris Louis's development was his meeting with Helen Frankenthaler in New York. Frankenthaler, an Abstract Expressionist like Pollock, used diluted paints to stain her canvas. Shortly after meeting her, Louis produced 12 canvasses that showed carefully controlled spills of diluted, thin paint. This was the beginning of his trademark style.
  3. 3. Cover a table with recycled newspaper. Pour one capful each of several colors of Crayola® Washable Paint in separate, small paper cups. Add at least four times that much water to each paper cup. Mix with a Crayola Paint Brush.
  4. 4. Look closely at Morris Louis's Burning Stain, created in 1961. Louis began by holding his canvas up, then pouring single colors of diluted paint down the canvas, carefully controlling their motion. To try a similar technique, place a spoonful of one color of your diluted paint on the top edge of a paper that is flat on a table. Slowly lift your paper from the top, controlling the movement of the dripping paint as you lift the paper. Try to make a perfectly straight line of paint from top to bottom. Keep lifting your paper until the paint runs off the bottom, and onto the newspaper.
  5. 5. Repeat this process until you have created a multi-colored stripe, similar to Louis's Burning Stain. Dry.
  6. 6. What do you think? Is this method of painting easier or harder than representational painting? Write about your thoughts and experiences using Crayola Colored Pencils.


Compare the work of Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis. Experiment with the direction of the flow of your thinned paint, then compare your work to the art you observed. Which artist more closely matches your style?

Compare the work of Jackson Pollock to both Frankenthaler and Louis. How is it different? How is it similar? Try to create a painting that has similarities to all three artists by experimenting with different thicknesses of paint and directions of paint flow.


Students differentiate between representational and abstract artwork, and identify the characteristics of Abstract Expressionism.

Students research the artwork of Morris Louis, and the influences on his style by Jackson Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler.

Children explore the method of pouring diluted paint to create a decorative, stained artwork, and write about their experiences in painting with gravity.


Grades 4 to 6
Grades 7 to 12


Language Arts
Visual Arts


Less than 1/2 hour
30 to 60 minutes

curriculum standards links

US: Research U.S. Standards
UK: Research UK Standards
Canada: Research Canada Standards

safety guidelines

Crayola Washable Paints—Not for use as body/face paint.

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