Dita Parker

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Surviving Picasso

I took a trip to Helsinki to see a man about a painting. And some sculptures, portraits, photographs, lithographs, sketches, still lifes... If you're anywhere in the vicinity, say a ferry away, get thee to the Finnish National Gallery. No, sorry, they're not coming to Oslo or Copenhagen or anywhere else in Scandinavia for that matter, and once the National Picasso Museum in Paris reopens, these babies aren't budging.

This is Picasso's own collection ranging from the late 1900's to the 1970's. You may not care for fine art. You may not like Picasso. You may say "My three-year-old can do better." Personal opinions aside, I linked my exhibition experience to my own craft and beyond and came up with

10 writing lessons by Picasso

1.) It's never too late to get the career you want or to do whatever it is you're postponing until the kids move out, you finally do switch jobs, go back to school, divorce, marry, the wind changes and humidity is optimal. In his sixties, Picasso was only getting started.

2.) Passion. Picasso had a passion for art. It meant closing the door behind him and tuning out everyone and everything else. The idea of moving to some remote location to become a recluse be it ingenious hermit may not appeal to you. But could you carve space for what you are most passionate about? Sure you can, and no, it's not selfish or self-indulgent. If it's important to you, make it known and take the time. Don't wait for permission or validation. 

3.) There's no substitute for hard work. Picasso was always working, as many writers will attest they are. His work was an integral part of him. He breathed it, lived it, could not be separated from it. Most of us do need a break from whatever it is we consider or hope one day to be a livelihood just to be able to spend time with friends and family, but if your mind wanders, don't take out the ash and start sprinkling, you may have found your calling and hear its call.

4.) Inspiration. Picasso didn't sit around waiting for the muses to move him. His body of work consists of some 50,000 pieces. Ideas are everywhere. You only need one to get going.

5.) Influences. He was influenced by everything from a cobweb to his contemporaries. He stole from many, but he didn't do what they had done, he turned it into something all his own. Know your peers and predecessors, but avoid comparison.

6.) Free your mind. Picasso experimented, played with and tried out everything. He didn't limit himself and he defied being pigeon-holed. Maybe he was that multitalented because he kept in touch with the curiosity and open-mindedness of a child. You don't grow old, he believed, you ripen.

7.) Reinvention.  Picasso reinvented himself many times over. He'd take a technique apart, study it thoroughly, and then move on to something else, not because he was exhausted with it but because he had exhausted it. He carried what he'd learned with him, all the richer for it. If you feel stuck and ready to stuff it, it doesn't mean there's nowhere to go, it only means you've stopped looking.

8.) Integrity. Picasso was fearless in his art and his opinions, in expressing them and himself. He got in trouble for it, but he kept true to himself and his vision. Some parts of yourself you never sell. Only you know what those are. 

9.) The masters and critics of his time didn't care much for his art. Most simply didn't understand him. Picasso didn't care if they cared, or understood. He thought they were trying too hard, searching for meaning in the wrong places, not seeing beyond the lies art tells to tell the truth. The only question should have been: "Do I enjoy what I'm seeing?"

10.)  "Everything you can imagine is real." Joy and pain, bulls and bullfighting, war and peace, women, the Minotaur. These are some of the themes Picasso kept revisiting. Hundreds of variations could spring from any single theme. If there was only one truth, one answer to every question out there, we would have no use for art or stories. But art, or writing, isn't a science. People are complex, motivations vary. The arts deal in possibilities, in the "Why not?" and the "What if?". In that universe, there's plenty of room to move no matter what your story, theme, genre or technique happens to be. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

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