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Pendulum Painting

This spirograph-inspired project from TV crafter Jim "Figgy" Noonan combines science and art to create a one-of-a-kind design.




Resources: Artist’s Tempera Paint available from DaVinci Artist Supply; all other tools and materials available from craft-supply and hardware stores.


  • Bamboo poles (or similar)
  • Twine
  • Rubber feet
  • Craft knife
  • Plastic bottle
  • Elmer’s glue nozzle
  • Hot-glue gun
  • Electrical or duct tape
  • Hole punch (1/4 inch)
  • Large paper clip
  • Tempera paint
  • Water
  • Measuring cup
  • Sieve
  • Large piece of paper (watercolor, newsprint, craft paper, etc.)


  1. Step 1

    Create a tripod by lashing together three bamboo poles (or dowels, pipes or similar) with twine. Attach rubber feet to ends of poles for added traction. 
(Ready-made tripod easels can also be purchased from an office supply store.)

  2. Step 2

    Use a craft knife to cut off the bottom 1/2 inch of a recycled plastic bottle. With hot glue, attach glue nozzle to mouth of bottle, adding extra glue around bottom rim of nozzle to create a tight seal. For added security, wrap seam in electrical or duct tape.

  3. Step 3

    To reinforce bottle where support strings will be tied, fold three small tabs of tape in an equidistant configuration on the cut end. Punch a hole through each tab of tape (and the plastic bottle) with 1/4-inch hole punch, thread a long piece of twine through each hole, and secure in place.

  4. Step 4

    Bring all strings together and tie in a large loop about 1 to 2 feet from the bottle. Thread loop onto a large paper clip. Tie a piece of twine to the top of the tripod so that it hangs down into the center. Tie a loop at the bottom end of the twine and attach pendulum with paper clip “hook.” Adjust height; the nozzle should be at least 1 inch away from the paper.

  5. Step 5

    Mix one part tempera paint with one part water. Paint should run freely but should not be too watery. Add more paint or water if necessary. Strain paint and water mixture through sieve to remove any lumps and prevent the pendulum nozzle from clogging.

  6. Step 6

    Place paper under tripod. Make sure nozzle is closed and carefully add paint to pendulum. Pull pendulum off to side of paper, open nozzle and allow paint to run freely. With paint flowing, let pendulum swing over paper, changing direction as desired.

  7. Step 7

    To stop flow of paint, place finger under paint nozzle and twist to close. Allow artwork to dry flat.

The Martha Stewart Show, March 2012



Reviews (5)

  • KatieHeint 29 Nov, 2014

    This project is great! I actually turned it into my science project this year!

  • WayFaraday 28 Oct, 2014

    Jim Noonan is such a genius! How did he think of this exciting new "Pendulum Painting Technique" ? Move over Jackson Pollack!


  • terrytown 4 May, 2012

    Loved this idea, I loved this as a child. The larger scale of this craft is wonderful. I can't wait to build one and do this with my Grand-daughter Rebecca Grace.. She will have her first original painting, I might have to sign it for her, she is only 21 months old. I sometimes work for a national known artist: Mr. John Ruthven ~ Wildlife Artist~ He has always encourage all the young children and adults to be creative with paint. Thank you again. Terry Town

  • Canfield6151 29 Mar, 2012

    I also cut out the tripod by hanging the Pendulum from an "eye" I placed in the beam of a basement joist. This also allowed me to make a larger image which I cut into smaller images. I framed them in the same square Ikea Frames and hung them as a group. Really really cool.

  • Canfield6151 29 Mar, 2012

    This is soooo cool!!! I cut out the steps of having to make the paint bottle.. I found a 16oz squeeze bottle at Sam Flax that happens to have the same size cap as a 16 oz Elmers Glue.
    I just switched caps... Great project.