We are ripping a page from Pablo Picasso’s artistic playbook today, consider it a shorthand overview of the seminal lessons I learned from this painter while living in Paris. OK, I didn’t learn anything directlyfrom the man himself, but for about seven months I spent nearly every day at the Musee Picasso in the Marais district of Paris trying to make sense of my future while looking at my reflection in the paintings on the walls and ephemera in the hallways. Such an inspired time!!
Picasso’s life is something beyond extraordinary. He painted for over eight decades- eighty years!!!- and created a overwhelmingly tremendous body of work. Even if he wasn’t the first to start a new convention in Modern Art, he would take the new vision to the next level. Although his “colorful” relationships with women do not thrill me, his exhalation of women as his muses were unparalleled in his time.
Here’s what I picked up in my days of wandering the circular streets of Paris with a bottle of Evian and a packet of Silk Cut Purple cigarettes to land on the benches inside Musee Picasso with an open journal and an open mind.
1. Confront your audience head on and don’t be limited by the size of your canvas. I didn’t first see the painting above in that Parisian museum, but man, when I saw it I could never look away. THERE IS SO MUCH POWER IN DIRECT CONFRONTATION. Check out the lack of apology in these lady figures and their totally purposeful gazes. This is such a cool way to be!
2. Perspective is what you make of it. Check out these portraits. Are they whole, or disjointed? Are you looking at the side or the front? Could you say you are engaged or repulsed? For some, Picasso’s portraits are the ultimate in beauty. Historically speaking, they are a revelation. No one would dare to paint faces like these! The portrait is a very “serious” art form in Picasso’s day, not open to much “interpretive license”. This man saw what he saw, and he did not apologize for the way he saw life. Instead, he prodigiously put his perspective into the world and onto his canvas. For anyone who has survived major obstacles in life, perspective is key to survival; these painting made me understand for the first time that having a unique perspective was a gift, even if it was not the “pretty unicorns & rainbows” perspective. Even if your life has not been an uphill battle, you may see things a bit differently than your peers. Cultivate this eye toward life!
3. Step FAR out of the box! While I would never think of living on the fringe of society (for me, balance is the ultimate goal), a big step outside the box can help bring killer innovation back to daily life and work. The few weeks of vacation time you spend on an organic farm without internet, tending the pea tendrils and collecting berries could be the color and flavor you need for your work. If you want to paint your house, maybe try that insanely wild color you have been dreaming of in a small room to start. You can always reign it in, but if you don’t take the leap you will never know how far you can go in stretching the boundaries. Below is the very famous Picasso portrait of his Cubist period. You can’t go farther out of the box as a painter in 1910 than this, and it was critical to the creation of new physical dimensions in painting, in the birth of abstract thought and expression and in the exuberance of vanguard philosophy in general. Cubism didn’t last forever in Picasso’s artistic progression, but that leap out of the box allowed for the generation of much of Modern Art in every form to follow.
4. You are not confined to one style. In fact, you may be known as a great cupcake baker but become famous for baking bread. If you stick to just one medium, you might miss a chance to grow. If you can’t find a job in your “usual field”, reinvent your skills in a new package. If you dream of being a screenwriter but you are a lawyer, the coffee houses of the world are open to you when you are ready to start. More than one famous movie maker is a writer. Also, check the wave of celebrities these days getting involved in clothing design, cooking, writing fiction, doing activism: the pop cultural world has caught this wave of “you can do anything”! The same Picasso who made the paintings above also made the three below, as well as nearly 20,000 other works in his lifetime. Be an artistic renegade, and commit to every step along the way!