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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Colourful Blessings

Colourful messages to bless a heart, soothe the soul and calm the mind.

Colouring books appear to be on the way out, but colouring products appear here to stay. Shops around the UK, whether art focused or not, are stocking colouring themed items. Recently I have seen calendars, greeting cards, mugs, table cloths and duvet covers that require you to add colour.

One such retailer is Christian Art Gifts, who provide numerous colouring products such as books, bibles, journals and cards. From a friend, I received a box of 44 cards produced by Christian Art Gifts. Titled Colourful Blessings the box contains over three dozen (business-size) cards with detailed, floral illustrations and bible versus to colour in.

Designed by an unnamed artist, the beautiful images look great when coloured in with bright, cheerful colours, which emphasise the positivity of their messages. The intricate details require thin pencil tips to avoid going over the lines, however the thickness of the card is also suitable for finely tipped pens – potentially easier than constantly sharpening your pencils!

These cards are perfect for giving away to individuals, friends, family, those in need of care or encouragement etc. Being only 4 1/4″x 3 1/4″the cards are easy to slip into pockets, purses, handbags etc, however can also be stuck on fridges and walls as constant reminders of God’s love, peace and joy.

Most of my cards I have donated to my church to be sent out to people we pray for, others I will give to friends who need a reminder that they are loved and cared for. Although most contain a bible verse, there are a few that are less obviously religious, so you can send them to the agnostics and atheists, too!

Make sure you look at the rest of the colouring range at Christian Art Gifts. It is amazing how many ways to colour in there are!

Bringing the Bible to Life: Let’s Colour

Since the colouring book phase does not to appear to have faded, Bible Society have produced a colouring calendar for 2017. With twelve pages to complete for the year ahead, there is a lot of fun to be had personalising each design.

However, this is not just a promotional item on behalf of Bible Society, it is designed with the intent of sharing Scripture and encouraging people to engage with specific bible verses.

I hope my work helps people recall the Bible, so they can remember it or visualise it. I want what I do to be an encouragement, and to help people trust God.

Emma Skerratt, a British graphic designer, spends hours illustrating Bible verses. For this calendar she has selected twelve powerful verses from the English Standard Version that particularly stand out and illustrate God’s love for each and every individual.

Due to the size and scale of the illustrations, there are quite a few tiny sections to colour in. Sharp pencils will definitely be needed – pen will probably bleed through the double sided pages. Whether you are a pro, or just enjoy colouring, there is enormous fun to be had with this calendar. As a bonus, you get to feel closer to God. With a suggested donation of 50pence, there is not much to prevent you from getting your own copy.

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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Art Group. July 2016

This month I have experimented with a few different art styles, although you can probably still tell they are all produced by the same person. To begin with I continued using colour but soon went back to black and white pen drawings – partly to do with time scale. My “safe” method of sketching is to crosshatch, which I did on a couple of pictures, but I also tried to come out of my comfort zone by attempting something different.

Recently I have begun to find pointillism quite calming (except when my wrist begins to ache) and decided to try it out during a couple of art sessions. I also attempted to produce something slightly more abstract than my usual outcomes. I was inspired by a couple of things I saw online: e.g. lightbulbs containing misplaced objects. Using this idea (but not copying a design) I drew a bulb with a candle inside – an attempt at irony.

Those who read my blog last month will know that I was asked to submit a couple of drawings to displayed at an open event. I did this and have received many positive comments. I decided to send in my drawing of a dragonfly as well as the drawing I did of Donald Duck, which I am actually quite proud of. Not only were these displayed on the actual day, they are still up on the walls today. They were loved so much they have decided to keep them on display!

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Scribblicious – The Works

My coloured drawings have amazed and baffled many people over the past few months. “How are you doing that?” “How are you producing shading?” “Are you using special pencils?” Well, no I am not using “special” pencils, however I am using a large variety of colours.

Many colouring pencil packs contain only the basic colours (e.g. red, orange, yellow, light green, dark green, light blue, dark blue, pink, purple, brown, black), which are usually all you need to complete a colouring sheet, or some such. In order to make artwork look more realistic or three dimensional you need many more shades.
5052089169708_zSome people, and rightly so, may assume that bigger packs of pencils are expensive; however this is not always the case. Most people living in the UK should be aware of the family friendly discount store The Works, sellers of cheap books, puzzles and art & craft supplies. Whilst browsing their Scribblicious range of art equipment, I came across a set of 36 colouring pencils for a ridiculously low price (currently £4 at time of writing).

As you can see from the picture above, there are 34 coloured pencils that include the basic colours and all the shades in between. There are also two metallic pencils – silver and gold. The Works claim that these 17cm pencils are “perfect for use at school or home, create beautiful pictures on paper, card and more,” and I completely agree.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, it is difficult to find colouring pencils with which one can create amazing art work. Often I find that they either break every time they are sharpened, or they are so hard that it is impossible to produce a deep enough colour without destroying the paper in the process. With these Scribblicious pencils I have not had a single problem: they have not broken, sharpen easily, and are very soft thus producing bright, satisfying colour.

As for my own artwork, I am able to use these pencils to slowly build up the shading in my drawings. By lightly colouring in using circular motions, I gradually increase the pressure until I get the tone I want, using the darker versions of the colours where shadow is present. Obviously you need to become skilled in this technique, which takes a lot of practice: it is not as though the pencils are magic, turning everyone into artists, however you do need a considerable selection of colours as in this particular set.

Scribblicious colouring pencils are definitely the best I have come across so far. I highly recommend them to everyone, and suggest you take advantage of the low prices in The Works. When purchasing art equipment many artists buy the well-known, expensive brands, but The Works have proved that being cheap does not equate to rubbish!

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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