How to Think like Picasso – Set Yourself a Challenge
Can you think like Picasso? Exploring Old Master techniques is useful but thinking like a great artist can also be important. Steve Pill takes some tips from Pablo Picasso’s attitude and approach to his painting.
Don’t just paint for the sake of it – set yourself a challenge before you begin each new painting. Not only will you find the process more satisfying, you will improve your skills more quickly with a focus.
For Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Picasso was wrestling with the problem of how he could find a way to depict three-dimensional space in a flat, two-dimensional painting. He developed the idea here of these energetic planes and lines suggesting the same subject viewed from multiple angles, which paved the way for the Cubist art movement over the next decade.
How to think like Picasso – Be open to influences
In his early years especially, Picasso made an effort to absorb all manner of classical and avant-garde influences. “Bad artists copy,” he reasoned. “Good artists steal.”
When painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907, he intently studied El Greco’s The Opening of the Fifth Seal (Apocalyptic Vision of Saint John), which was owned at the time by a close friend. It is perhaps no coincidence that the two paintings share many similarities, from the broad brushwork, to the almost square format and figurative composition. Other key influences included the nudes of Paul Gauguin and Paul Cézanne, as well as elements of primitive art.
How to think like Picasso – Let your mood be your guide
Picasso’s portfolio is often split into distinct periods and part of the reason these divisions are so easy to see is the artist’s obvious shift in colour palette and atmosphere. “Colours, like features, follow the changes of the emotions,” he once said, and nowhere is that more true than during the early Blue and Rose periods or his grey, wartime still life paintings, in which the dominant colour reflected his mood. Letting mood guide you in this way can add interest and variety to your work.
How to think like Picasso – Make revisions
When a painting is in progress, it is often too easy to feel that the composition is fixed, when in fact a bold change can help you reconnect with your original intentions.
Picasso was never afraid of making wholesale changes. He made almost 100 sketches and small paintings in preparation for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, yet despite such lengthy planning, he still made major revisions, including completely painting over the crouching figure several times.