Born in Cody, Wyoming to Scotch-Irish parents, Jackson Pollock was dubbed “Jack the Dripper” (Time magazine 1956) for his revolutionary technique of gestural painting that freed generations of American artists from academic strictures. He used dissonant, garish colors, and applied paint with energetic circular motions to large canvases so that his work exuded physical energy.
He went to the Art Students League with the intention of studying with Thomas Hart Benton, the most celebrated artist of the Depression and later a well-known Regionalist painter from Missouri. Benton took a particular interest in Pollock because Benton preferred friendships with “virile and honest” people from the West and Midwest like himself. Benton had the greatest influence on Pollack, teaching that the artist’s experience with painting was of more importance than the resulting work. Benton promoted theories of rhythmic balance, dynamic sequence, and “muscular action patterns,” all of which Pollock utilized later in his work.
Pollock, from his earliest days studying art in California, was also much influenced by techniques of El Greco, Spanish painter, whose rhythmic repetition of forms he adopted. In the summers in the 1930s, Pollock would “hit the highway,” often going through Oklahoma and the Panhandle of Texas, and from these experiences he did prints showing cowboy and farm activity. He also had work as a W.P.A. artist, working in the Mural Division, which required one painting a month for a public building.
He also came under the influence of the Mexican muralists David Siqueiros, Jose Orozco, and Diego Rivera, whose extensive use of symbolism Pollock utilized in his large-scale paintings. In the 1940s, his emotional turmoil led him to themes that were mythic and heroic in highly abstract styles including Cubism, Surrealist automatism, Abstract Expressionism, and the biomorphic forms of Joan Miro.
Pollock married Lee Krasner, a Russian Jewish artist, with whom he had a crisis-driven relationship but a sharing of interest in mysticism and avant-garde painting. They lived at East Hampton on Long Island, and the move away from the city seemed by 1946 to have a freeing effect on his painting. Much influenced by her theories and encouragement, he began painting increasingly with drips, smears, and giant circular motions over smaller geometric shapes.
He applied paint with sticks, trowels, knives, and by dripping paint. He spoke of the painting taking on a life of its own, and a sense of pure harmony with the creation. It set a new standard in American art, especially when Pollock abandoned brushes completely for dripping and pouring paint to avoid the disruption of reloading the paint brush. He said he had a general notion of what he was about before beginning but that the painting also took on a life of its own.
Bio from askart.com