In 1956, French film director Henri-Georges Clouzot (no relation) filmed Picasso at work. The resulting documentary is called ‘The Mystery of Picasso,’ and if you indulge in creative endeavors, you need to watch this film. Regardless of your opinion of his work, Picasso was undoubtedly a genius, and if you don’t think so, you will after you watch the film. It’s in French, with subtitles in English. This is not about Picasso the man and it’s not about the finished works you’ve seen in galleries, what it’s really about is process, and you get to watch the man work starting from blank canvas. In writing, we start out with a first draft and then we use that as the raw material, changing it through subsequent drafts until we finally get sick of it and call it finished. In my own case, sometimes the finished product is an improvement over the original and sometimes it has morphed into an unrecognizable snarl of verbiage that I no longer want anything to do with. Picasso does something very similar, he calls it ‘layering,’ and the same sort of process takes place, and sometimes the finished product is vastly superior to the original draft, and sometimes it is not. And on two occasions I was hoping for him to stop, and he didn’t. There winds up, embedded in the finished work, some things he shouldn’t have painted over. “This is turning very dark,” he said on one occasion. “This is very bad.”
‘Kill your darlings,’ if you read about writing you will encounter advice like that, and Picasso kills his darlings without hesitation. I have always defined ‘art’ as something that I can’t do, and it is instructive to watch him paint over images that I couldn’t reproduce if my life depended on it. I appreciate this collaboration between two artists, Picasso and Clouzot (no relation). It is incredible to be able to observe how Picasso went about putting together a work of art, and if you try, on occasion, to put something together that might be regarded at art, you really do need to watch this film.
It is currently available for purchase at Amazon.