Picasso: Coloured In

 

Toward the end of 2016, the National Portrait Gallery in London held an exhibition on the works of the master of modern art, Pablo Picasso. Displaying a lifetime of artwork, the gallery provided a concise biography of Picasso’s life, providing the opportunity to learn about the artist as well as his paintings. The gift shop at the exit of the exhibition sold mementoes of the display, including a colouring book containing 20 black and white versions of some of the major works of Picasso during the 20th Century.

Pablo Picasso: To Colour In was published in April 2016 with the intention of using the popular fad to educate readers/colouring book enthusiasts about the techniques and secrets of the great master. Each work included in the book has a brief paragraph explaining what it is (in case you cannot tell) and a few details about Picasso’s intentions or the events happening in his life at the time.

Although Pablo Ruiz Picasso was Spanish, he lived in France for the majority of his adult life. As a child, he lived in various areas of Spain beginning with Malaga where he was born on 25th October 1881. He lived here with his parents and two sisters, Dolores and Concepción. However, Concepción, or Conchita as she was known, died very young, a tragedy that had a great impact of Picasso.

Picasso’s father, a museum curator and teacher of fine art, encouraged his son to begin painting. Picasso received lessons in technique and academic style, completing his first painting, The Picador, in 1889, at a mere eight years old. Later, after moving to North-Western Spain, Picasso completed his initial training at La Lonja Academy in Barcelona.

Picasso attempted further education in Madrid at the San Fernando Royal Academy – a competitive college to get into – however, was forced to return to Barcelona after a severe bought of scarlet fever. This did not prevent Picasso from continuing his artistic journey and he was soon producing compositions that impressed local academies.

His surname, Picasso, evokes images of abstract art, however, there was a steady development of style and technique until he reached the more obscure results. Picasso’s colour palette was key in his varying phases, the first being predominately blue. What triggered this period was the sudden loss of a close friend to suicide in 1901. Devastated, Picasso painted a death portrait, which was spread through with blue tones. During this “blue period”, Picasso painted many melancholy subjects such as beggars and hospital patients. It was during this time that Picasso began to branch out into other forms of artistic expression, for example, sculpture.

By 1904, Picasso had moved and settled in Montmartre, France, where he had a small studio of his own. After three years of excessively using the colour blue, Picasso entered a new phase now known as the “rose period”. Naturally, this incorporated a brighter colour palette and heralded more cheerful subjects. Inspired by a local circus, Picasso often depicted harlequin clowns in his paintings. This vivid period lasted until 1907 when Picasso produced his first major work The Young Ladies of Avignon (see above), which sparked the beginning of yet another period: cubism.

Picasso’s cubist paintings are different from the majority of artists involved with the movement. Initially, he was inspired by other artists, but eventually abandoned all traditional rules and focused on painting geometric still lifes, revealing an object from several directions, rather than the way the human eye would usually perceive it from one position.

Not wanting to be constrained to the stipulations of an art faction, Picasso flitted between several. After experimenting with Cubism, he stepped into the Surrealist movement, where he completed paintings and sculptures up until the beginning of the Second World War. Following the bombing of the town, Guernica, Picasso created his famously large painting of the same name. Despite its fame, Guernica has not been included in this colouring book.

Living through two wars, two marriages and many other life altering events, Picasso’s works can be used as a form of a diary. When viewed in chronological order, it is possible to tell what was going on for him personally at specific times. For example, his “blue period” was sparked off by the death of a friend and his work took on a more violent nature during the bleak wartimes. His marriages and divorce can be evidenced by the models used for many of his portraits, for instance, his female companions: Dora Maar and Marie-Thérèse (again, see above).

Despite failing health, Picasso was still painting in his 90s, producing 165 canvases during January 1969 and February 1970 alone. By the time he died on 8th April 1973, Picasso had produced over 50,000 works – an astonishing feat that still evokes veneration.

Naturally, it would be impossible to produce a book of all Picasso’s recorded works, but the editors of this particular colouring book have carefully selected examples that span the majority of his life, thus encompassing the different styles he experimented with.

The author of the text – presumably Frédérique Cassegrain, who also wrote the biography and information for each included artwork – gives helpful advice about how to colour in the outlined versions of Picasso’s paintings. The paper is thick enough to be suitable for paints, particular Gouache, which is water soluble and easily blended. Alternatively, coloured pencils may be used, preferably of artistic quality, which may be more suitable for those less confident in art and design. Another option, although not mentioned by the author, are felt-tip pens. Usually, these should be avoided due to ink bleeding through the page, however, the paper is single sided, so there is no chance of damaging the following colouring page in the book.

Purchasing Pablo Picasso: To Colour In and completing the book, provides not only hours of fun and relaxation, but an opportunity to discover and understand the artist. Unlike at a gallery where the brain may switch off, being able to go away and return to the book gives us time to absorb the information and concentrate more clearly on the details of each painting.

Opposite each colouring page is a copy of the original in full colour, meaning that, if one desired, one could replicate Picasso’s work as closely as possible. By doing, rather than just looking, we begin to understand the colour choices, piece together the geometric shapes to form an image and begin to understand the thought processes of the artist.

Interestingly, there are two paintings that stand out amongst all the others. These were produced during and after the First World War, a time when Picasso returned to a more classical style of artwork. These are The Pipes of Pan (1923) and The Bathers (1918). Both show a completely different side to Picasso and would not immediately be recognised as his own work. Despite not being entirely life-like, there are no elements of Cubism or Surrealism and the colour palette is altogether natural. Picasso has focused on shading and tone to create a realistic appearance, a contrast to the flattened portraits he is known for.

Having seen evidence at the National Portrait Gallery as well as in this colouring book, it is clear that Picasso was able to paint lifelike portraits and scenes, however, he generally chose not to. This may baffle those that wish they could draw accurately; why opt for abstract art when you have a natural flair for realism? Picasso was not concerned about the aesthetic appeal of his artworks but rather used them as a form of expression. He experienced two world wars and personal grievances which greatly impacted on his painting style. Sometimes it is too difficult to put feelings into words, so Picasso represented them visually instead.

Abstract, Cubist and Surrealist art is something that people either love or hate. Many may not appreciate artists such as Picasso, whereas others find them deeply meaningful. Having the opportunity to study the artist through a detailed colouring book creates a more comprehensive understanding of the artwork and ability to acknowledge the intention and story behind it.

Pablo Picasso: To Colour In will appeal to artists, art historians and other creatives with its contrast of light relief and in-depth knowledge. The book is available online at retailers such as Amazon and The Book Depository from approximately £6. If Picasso is not your thing, there are other artists available in the series of colouring books, including Klimt, Hokusai (Japanese Art), Monet, Van Gogh, Caillebotte and Manet (Impressionists), and Paul Klee. Whatever your preference, prepare to learn whilst you are relaxing and having fun.

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Colouring with Purpose

Colouring books are great things to buy. They are fun, relaxing, beautiful, and make fantastic presents. It is impossible to only buy one book. Before you know it you have too many to store. But nowadays colouring is not only restricted to books…

One innovative colouring alternative are greeting cards. They are creative and personal ways of expressing you feelings, congratulations or sympathy for friends and loved ones. Many people have made their own cards by hand at some point, but these cards make it slightly easier to produce something (almost) handmade. You may think it is cheating, but everyone has a unique way of colouring. Every picture is different due to the choice of colours, type of pen/pencil, and even the way we hold said pen/pencil.

The pictured examples above come from a set bought for me from The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall.Each one features a different type of bird: hawfinch, goldfinch, yellowhammer, coal tit, great tit and long tailed tit. Some of the cards are more detailed than others, but the final result relies on you, the artist.

There are loads of ready-to-colour cards out there. Look in art and craft shops, book stores and local gift shops to discover many of the different types. Also, websites like Amazon have a huge selection. Here are some examples:

  • Rebecca Jones has produced several ranges for The National Trust. Each set contains some aspect of nature: butterflies, flowers etc.
  • Prepare for Christmas with these cards produced by the same publishers as above.
  • Instead of greeting cards you could opt for Postcards, like these from Puffin, the publishers of thousands of children’s books.
  • You can buy cards for all sorts of specific occasions, especially birthdays
  • … and thank yous.
  • Even popular colouring books have postcard versions.
  • Colouring cards are just as relaxing as colouring books.

Sadly, these packs of cards can be expensive. However you can make your own coloured-in card. If you have finished colouring sheets lying around (or a book that’s fallen apart like I have) you can turn them into a lovely greeting card for someones birthday. All you need is a blank card to stick the sheet on (which will probably need trimming), and voila, one handmade card. Give it a go!

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Who Says Pandas are All Black and White?

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Anne Belov is a satirical cartoonist with an obsession for pandas. She has published several books in The Panda Chronicles and has now produced a colouring book to go with the series. Pandas may seem like a peculiar subject for a colouring book since they are, as Belov puts it, “chromatically challenged,” however the world around them is bursting with different tints and shades.

The pandas featured in The Panda Chronicles are not the typical bears you might see in a zoo, or endangered in the wild. Anne Belov’s pandas get up to all sorts of mischief. In this colouring book you can expect to find pandas in all sorts of locations, wearing a variety of odd outfits, taking part in highly suspicious activities. So despite monochromatic fur, there is so much to add colour to.

The Panda Chronicles Colouring Book contains approximately 60 single sided illustrations. Although the paper feels quite thin, the lack of anything on the reverse means that it is safe to use any medium you wish to fill the drawing with colour.

Belov’s drawing approach is not the typical style of the hundreds of colouring books you see in stores – i.e. thick, precise lines and patterns. Belov sticks to her sketchy manner that she has used in all the chronicles thus far. In fact there is reason to believe (although do not quote this) that many of the illustrations are from the original books. While standing out in such a niche market, these particular pages may be more difficult to colour in. Some contain many scribbles rather than clear objects, however that does not detract from the overall fun guaranteed with this book.

Pandas in unconventional settings are a great cause for hilarity and satire. Not only is it funny that these bears are parodying human life, but the things they are up to are highly amusing. One particularly comical scene contains a mother panda telling her child off for being the cause of the LEANING Tower of Pisa, to which the youngster protests, “I didn’t do it! It was leaning when we got here!” The wittiness continues throughout the remainder of the book.

I bought this book hoping it would be suitable for my “pandamaniac” friend, who on occasion tells farcical stories about her (imaginary) friend Miss Panda. Anne Belov’s colouring book is the absolutely perfect present for her. It is almost as if the scenes are written/drawn about Miss Panda herself, despite the artist and my friend having never met… Unless… oh the horror! Maybe Miss Panda IS real!

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Where’s Wally? The Colouring Book

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                                              The ultimate colouring challenge!

Everyone knows who Wally is. Created by Martin Handford, Wally first appeared in the book Where’s Wally? in 1987, and has since become famous throughout the world. The aim of the book is to locate Wally and all of his friends in numerous crowded, hand-drawn scenes.

Whilst the colouring book franchise is taking the world by storm, what better time to release a Where’s Wally? colouring book? The idea is the same as the previous Handford publications, in that the ultimate aim is to find Wally; however in this instance it is also left up to you to add the colour to the scenes.

Where’s Wally? fans will recognize many of the drawings from the original books, and therefore will already know where Wally is hiding – but it is much harder to spot him without his traditional red and white stripes being shaded in.

There are twenty-seven double-paged scenes to colour in and keep you entertained for hours. Those familiar with Handford’s illustrations will be aware of the detail he includes; and yes, you are meant to colour ALL of it! This colouring book will definitely take you a while to complete. The downside to such detailed pages is that there are so many tiny elements to add colour to. You will need to keep your pencils sharpened and sit in a well-lit area.

The pages are quite thick, but as they are double sided I would be wary of using felt-tip pens. Perhaps test them on the title page first to make sure they do not bleed through to the other side. Also, only fine tipped pens will be suitable in order to stay within the lines.

Many people believe that colouring is childish, but this book proves otherwise. You will need lots of control and patience in order to finish this book. Good luck.

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Addicted to colouring as I am, I needed a book I could easily pack in my hand luggage when I went abroad. It needed to be light weight, paper back, and full of easy relaxing patterns.

colouring-book-resized3 In Tiger I came across this beautiful book for only £2. It contains 80 pages, double sided, which is more than enough to keep you occupied, but is still a thin, easily packable colouring book. It is approximately 22.2 x 22.2cm, still quite large, but a good size for my on-flight bag.

Pictured above are nine, completed, examples of the patterns and images included in this book. It does not reveal who the artist is, but presumably it has been put together by one person as the style remains consistent throughout.

I have to admit that a few of the designs are rather peculiar. Some have completely black backgrounds with a limited amount of sections to colour, whereas others have large white spaces. There are a few that contain actual images, for instance, animals, flowers, feathers, but most are patterns, some more random than others. I like colouring in patterns as I enjoy making my own rules when adding colours, however I have come across a couple that are rather uninspiring. The 8th image pictured above is an example of this. I am unsure of the artist’s intention.

What I like most about this book is the thick lines that help prevent smudges. They are a great guide to help you keep within the lines. This makes it a suitable book for children as well as adults, although whether a child would cope with the intricate patterns is a different issue.

Whether you are looking for a lightweight colouring book, or something cheap, I suggest you take a look in your local Tiger store and see what they have to offer. You are guaranteed a bargain. However, be aware that they change their stock often, so once they are gone they are gone!

 

 

Tiger or Pussy Cat?

I recently went abroad and wanted some colouring pencils that were easy to pack in my hand luggage. I found these half-length pencils in a local store that sells pretty much anything. They had been supplied to the shop by Tiger Stationery, which I had never heard of before, but I thought I would give them a go.

301681The cardboard packaging claims that the pencils are high quality with strong, break resistant leads, making them easier to sharpen.The pencils themselves are approximately 9cm tall and have smooth round edges, so no horrible dents in fingers from gripping them too hard!

For such a small pack of pencils there is a good range of colours. There are two shades of blue and green – light and dark – as well as all the other colours of the rainbow. There is also a black, brown, pink and maroon – the latter being a colour that is not usually in a typical 12 colour selection.

 

To begin with these pencils were great. They were easy to pack in my bag, did not take up too much room, and the colours came out fairly well in my colouring book. I did find that I needed to press fairly hard to get a strong, bright shade, which in small areas was not an issue. The problem arose when colouring in larger areas. The leads did not cooperate with my attempts to smoothly cover the white space, resulting in an uneven, scribble-like finish. (see second photo above)

So far these pencils were fairly successful for my purpose, although I quickly decided I would not use them for “proper” art work. But then I needed to sharpen them, and it all went horribly wrong. It seems that “strong break resistant leads” is false advertising on behalf of Tiger Stationery. The dark blue pencil was about 4cm high by the time I managed to sharpen it without the lead breaking. I could barely hold the pencil, and when I began to use it again, it broke immediately! The same thing happened with two thirds of the pack. Perhaps the pack had been dropped on the floor at some point, and was not a result of poor manufacturing, yet whatever the cause of these fragile pencils, they are definitely not strong or break resistant.

I am thoroughly disappointed with Tiger Stationery colouring pencils. After two pages the dark blue needs to be chucked away as it is no longer usable, and all but two of the others currently have broken leads. After a grand total of four colouring pages, these pencils are not going to be used again. TIGER Stationery? More like OAP pussy cat. I do not recommend.

Coloured Pencils That Actually Work

There is nothing worse (okay there is, but…) than sitting down to do some serious colouring-in with a brand new set of pencils and finding that they don’t, well, work. It seems silly putting it that way; how can a pencil not “work”? But, sadly, I have had this experience. I have had pencils that barely produce any colour no matter how hard I press, it is as if they are made of plastic. They also have a habit of tearing or creasing the paper as you determinedly try to continue using them. Frustrating!

Thankfully I have found a few sets of coloured pencils that do “work”, one of which is produced by Ryman Stationery. This particular set contains 12 Coloured Pencils and have been used to complete dozens of pages in my Art Therapy colouring book. This selection of pencils come in the basic colours you need when colouring or drawing: red, orange, yellow, light green, dark green, light blue, dark blue, purple, pink, brown, black and white; and are  in the classic hexagonal style so that you do not need to worry about them rolling off the table.

Each pencil is made of a high quality soft grained wood, which, Ryman claim make them easy to sharpen and less prone to breakages. However the best thing about them is the brightness and intensity of the colour – and you do not even need to press that hard! This makes colouring an easy task without the risk of straining your wrist or damaging the paper. For examples of the quality of the colours see the photographs above or in previous posts.

I have, mostly, been really happy with these pencils, nevertheless I have had a few issues. Despite declaring the lack of breakages, mine have often broken several times whilst sharpening. This may not be the fault of the manufacture however, but of my less than perfect pencil sharpener. Or perhaps they have been dropped on the floor a few too many times! This has resulted in me attempting to colour in with tiny stubs as a result of so much sharpening. (Maybe I ought to buy a new pack…)

Another downside to this set is there are only 12 colours, which can actually be quite limiting especially when colouring in an intricate pattern, or attempting to do some shading. Have no fear! These pencils are also sold as a pack of 24, which naturally contain a larger variety of shades.

Overall, these pencils are great. 5 stars. If you are looking for the right kind of pencils and do not want to risk buying a set only to discover they do not “work”, I guarantee you will not be disappointed with these. They’re fairly cheap too.

Happy colouring!

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