Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Going deep, staying at it: the price of creativity and breakthrough

April 28th, from Roderick MacIver's Journal

There was also a film made of Picasso painting on glass -- The Mystery of Picasso -- in which he uses felt pens and is filmed through the glass from the back. He's shirtless, drinking wine, completely focused for several hours on the images he's creating. At one point in the film he walks around to where the camera is located and talks to the director. Here's a paraphrase:

"What do you think?" asks Picasso.

"Wonderful. What do you think?" says the director.

"It is a little too superficial. It needs to go deeper. I should use paints, like I do at home."

"That's risky," says the director.

"Risk is what we need," says Picasso. "To go deeper, you need to take risks."

Five hours later, a painting is completed. Then Picasso works on a large canvass. His images start out fairly realistic -- it is a compendium of many different scenes built into one painting. The primary figures are a couple in bathing suits. Many hours later, the shapes are geometric abstracts. He has probably repainted over the entire surface at least twenty times -- each layer very different from that which proceeded. Toward the end he pastes cut out paper over the top of the bathers. Then he removes it, and says, "This has gone wrong. Terribly wrong. But now I know where I'm going. I'll start over on a new canvas."

And he does, but creates a much simpler painting based on a few geometric shapes and much more white space than there was in any previous version. Then he announces that he's finished, signs his name with a flourish, and strides off triumphantly.

The total concentration, the search for a perspective that somehow resonates with his vision, the process of painting over and over until something emerges. That thing, whatever it is, is indecipherable -- a collection of symbols representative of aspects of life, I suppose. I'd be surprised if he knew, but he knew he had found something.

All that is clear is that he's dug deep and he's satisfied.

from Heron Dance

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