Frank Bowling in his studio

Frank Bowling in his bedroom studio. Illustrations by Hélène Baum. With kind acknowledgement to Rose Jones whose film still inspired the illustration of Frank Bowling.


In 1934, Richard Sheridan Franklin Bowling was born. He was know as Frank to his friends and family and he grew up in British Guyana. He moved to London with dreams of becoming a poet.

Frank studied painting in London but then moved to New York City. There, on the floor of his room, he experimented with pouring and dripping paint rather than just using a paintbrush.

He found new ways to work with colour and express himself. Let’s use some of his techniques to transform the world around you!

Be inspired by the outside

Frank made art in his bedroom. He looked out the window for inspiration. What do you see from the windows in your house?

Use the windows below as inspiration to draw 4 different views. They don't have to be real places. Imagine looking out over space!

Four different colour window frames

Make a textured painting

Frank uses lots of materials in this painting, Spreadout Ron Kitaj. What can you see in this artwork? Oyster shells? Jewellery? Toys? Glitter? Hidden in the painting is even a drawing made by one of his sons when he was a little boy.

Frank Bowling, ‘Spreadout Ron Kitaj’ 1984–6
Frank Bowling
Spreadout Ron Kitaj 1984–6
Tate
© Frank Bowling. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2019

You will need:

  • PVA glue
  • Table salt
  • Food dye or watercolour paint (If you have any glitter, it will also come in useful!)

1. Squeeze glue onto a piece of paper or card to create a pattern.

2. Now cover over your glue lines with salt. Shake off any excess. If you want to add glitter, sprinkle a little on top.

3. Finally, dip a paint brush into your paint or food dye and trace over your salty pattern. The colour will “travel” along the sticky, salty path.

Make your own texture artwork

In his large map paintings, Frank Bowling began by drawing shapes of countries by hand like in this painting. He bought maps to cut up and put the shapes together again to make wonderful new imaginary landscapes.

Frank Bowling, ‘Who’s Afraid of Barney Newman’ 1968
Frank Bowling
Who’s Afraid of Barney Newman 1968
Tate
© Frank Bowling. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2019

Make your own map!

1. Place a sheet of tracing paper over the countries and continents like the ones below.

2. Trace around them and then cut them out.

3. Find some interesting papers, it could be tissue, newspaper, card or old leaflets.

4. Then stick your cut-outs on the paper to create a wonderful new map of your own. You could even make up your own shapes to create entire new worlds!

Countries for Bowling activity

Painting experiment

Frank Bowling enjoys experimenting with different ways of painting. You can try your own experiment below.

You will need:

  • A long piece of string or thread
  • An A3 piece of paper
  • Paint or ink, divided by colour into different cups
Bowling activity

1. Dip your string into the paint. Make sure you leave a clean bit at the end to hold onto!

Frank bowling activity

2. Lay the string on the paper, so that the clean end of the string dangles off the bottom of the page.

frank bowling activity

3. Fold the paper in half, sandwiching the string inside and then slowly pull out the string.

Frank Bowling activity

4. Voila! Your painting will be revealed when you unfold the paper.

Discover more activities in the Meet the Artist: Frank Bowling book written by Zoe Whitley, illustrated by Hélène Baum. The book will be available soon online at Tate Shop. Please visit this website with an adult.