Pour art is the catch-all term for a handful of styles and techniques. Common examples include acrylic pour paintings, pendulum paintings, and drip art. They are often abstract and non representational. Some use stencils of people, landscapes, or designs to protect parts of the canvas to create representational scenes in the foreground. The process of creating these pieces is easy to understand and well suited to the medium of bite-sized video content that has taken over social media as we know it. In any given feed, you are likely to see tens or even dozens of time lapse videos of pour paintings being created. In the comments on those videos, you are likely to see hundreds or even thousands of people typing over each other to loudly remind everyone else in the thread with an over-zealous, pearl-clutching righteousness that THIS, this 30 second video of a woman pouring pink and blue acrylic paint over a canvas with a tree stencil stuck on it, IS NOT ART.
Well guess what, tik tok and instagram comment section. It is art. It literally, by any definition and by historical example, is art. Tom Shannon, an American painter and sculptor, made his first pendulum pour painting in the 1970s as a way to explore the use of different forces in his art. His work heavily features the use of physics and other sciences to create certain sculptures and images. Of course, Jackson Pollock became one of the most well known artists in the country for his “action painting” technique during the abstract expressionism period in the 40s and 50s. Some of the earliest acrylic pour paintings were done in the 1930s by a Mexican artist named David Alfaro Siqueiros. Like pendulum paintings, acrylic pours have a connection to science: the speckled and swirled pattern is the result of the different densities of the paint, and as a result it takes a good intuition and a practiced hand to create the desired outcome in an acrylic pour–only some paint combinations will work.
With our historical precedent illustrated and our status as art established, I would now like to address some of the other concerns and comments I see on pour art videos:
- “My kid could do it!”
Sweet. Encourage your kid to make some paintings and instill a lifelong love of art in your child.
- “I could do it!”
Then give it a shot. You might like it.
- “Everyone is doing the same thing. This isn’t original!”
I suppose that every single French Academy painting of a nude Venus draped over some rocks was a bolt of divine originality that struck the artist like lightning. Art is a dialogue. People repeat subject matter, techniques, and ideas over and over again. This type of experimentation is how we develop new techniques and ideas; it’s how art moves forward.
- “It’s too easy to be an artist now! This is lazy!”
I personally think that a world where art is accessible and easy to create is a good one. If a technique feels approachable to people who do not usually consider themselves artists, and it can help them start a creative practice, then that’s awesome and we should be encouraging that. If you don’t care about that, I am going to go ahead and point out that these pieces require a lot of time and preparation. It is actually kind of difficult to hang a pendulum from the ceiling and it takes a lot of experimentation to get a feel for how the paint reacts to certain ellipses and pour patterns. If you still think that’s easy, great, see response 2.
- “People charge too much for these paintings!”
Then don’t buy one. This was fun.
- “Try painting something realistic/representational/with a brush. That’s real art!
This one usually comes from people who do some kind of traditional art. This comment is rooted in envy, brought on by the assumed success of the pour artists, because the traditional artist feels a little threatened by the idea that someone who is making “easier” work might be perceived as better or more talented than the traditional artist. I just want to reassure y’all that the people who like your art will still like your art, even if they also like pour art sometimes. Just focus on being the best artist you can be, and don’t tear down other artists over your differences in style.
On a final note, it’s kind of tacky to be rude to people online. Even if you think pour art is ugly or bad, you don’t have to tell the artist that. Would you say it to their face? If you knew them offline, would you still leave that comment? I know we all expect to get harassed or insulted online or to see other people be harassed and insulted, but do you personally have to add to that noise? Pour artists aren’t hurting anyone, they’re not bringing about the downfall of high art, they’re just making paintings. They’re allowed to do that. So please use your time constructively and stop wasting it to trash strangers on the internet.