Forces and Motion: Ball Painting

Arts Integration Residency with Montalvo Arts Center – in Campbell, CA.
I did this Unit in four elementary schools:
– Sherman Oaks Elementary (Spring 2015)
– Capri Elementary (Fall 2014)
– Village Elementary (Spring 2013)
– Lynhaven Elementary (Spring 2013)

This exercise is about understanding the forces at play when painting with an object in motion, in this case a marble rolling over paint on a paper in a cardboard box.  By documenting the process, the student can look again at what is happening, share, discuss, stop the video. This is a fun collaborative art+science experiment.

Lesson here.


–motion, friction, documenting
art – action painting, abstract, process, documenting

Science Curriculum
Objects in motion. Force changes the way an object moves.

material: all media paper 15″x11″, tempera paint (primary colors and secondary colors), cardboard box the same size as the paper (one for two students), plastic balls (bouncing type), large marbles.
video: Jackson Pollock at work

How it works

1. We watch a very short video showing Jackson Pollock at work.
– One of our art words is action painting. Pollock broke the rules of painting by painting without the brush touching the canvas.
– Another art word is process. Pollock’s process includes a lot of “paint in motion”, splashed and dripped by the energy of his gesture. Pollock definitely used forces in motion in his process. Using the same process over and over, he made many pieces with a different result each time.
Documenting the process: when we see an art piece, most of the time we do not understand how it was made. Seeing the artist at work is invaluable to understand the process and it is extremely recent in history.  So that’s why today we have teams of two students, one making a painting, the other one documenting (videotaping) with an iPad. We talk about how to videotape, trying to stay still while things move in the frame.
2. I give a short demo
What are the material we are using today? (They are on the table: cardboard box, all media paper, plastic balls and big marbles, paint). They are the material necessary for our process. There are primary and secondary colors to work with. The students are free to use as many colors as they want but I tell them that interesting results can be achieve by only using 2. They have to try and see for themselves. I show them how to pour the paint on the paper (to try to avoid large unmanageable pools of paint in the middle of the paper!). I make 2 balls roll in the paint and on the paper. The balls start tracing their trajectories. The motion of the balls changes when I change the way I move the box. I asked them to think about the fact that they would have to stop at a certain point, their piece would be finished. How do you know that? How not to work too much a piece?

3. The students work on their piece, taking turns.
It is interesting to see that for a lot of students, documenting the process was only about what was going on inside the box and not necessarily about the movements of the person making the piece.

4. End of the session discussion (science aspect/art aspect of the project and special words).

5. After art class art class the students write a few words about their experience.