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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.

Photography: Rob Tannenbaum

Source: The Martha Stewart Show, March 2012


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

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