Pablo and Me

Last week, from the library, I checked out "The Mystery of Picasso" on dvd. If you haven't seen it and you have any interest in watching The Man paint, it's terrific. You get to see Pablo, bare-chested and chain-smoking, in the studio taking on a string blank canvases. The canvases never stood a chance.

Witnessing his work as it takes shape is great fun. I enjoy watching artists work, whether in action or by looking at the sketches and studies that pile up on the way to a finished piece. You can see the artist thinking, and thinking is the most important part of the artistic process.

But what I really dug about the movie -- selfishly -- was seeing him struggle. He's going along, painting up a storm and things are looking good, but then he hits a bump. He retreats. He rushes forward. Dead end. He starts over. Another dead end. Ha! Take that, genius!

Of course he manages to come out pretty well at the end of each effort, but we can take heart that he did have moments where he was stumped. And we have to be impressed by the amount of effort that he had to put forth to find a resolution. It's not always easy, not even for Picasso.

This week I was asked to do an illustration for a story about micro-blogging, with the focus being on "Twitter"-- something I'd heard of but I didn't know what it was. After a discussion with the writer and a little research I started working on this.

I had not drawn since seeing "The Mystery of Picasso," and the first searching marks I made were the eyes and nose of the man at the keyboard, and the bird on his right shoulder. Obviously, Picasso was playing in my head, influencing my vision and nudging my hand.

"Pablo," I said, "if you will not let me go then I cannot see where this will end. How can I paint like you for a newspaper article?"

"Shut up," he said. He appeared before my mind's eye, the cigarette in his paint-stained hand drawing a cubist's dismissive gesture in the air. "Just go. You will know what to do."

I gave in and painted in a trance, hearing his whispers. But, when I came to the word balloons for the birds I found that Picasso had gone. "Pablo," I asked, "what do the birds say?"

Silence.

But then Charles Schulz appeared and my struggles were at an end.

The End