Artistic genius across three different artistic disciplines.
Picasso’s genius for painting; Chaplin’s genius for film making; and the Beatles’ genius for songs are fine examples of how artistic creativity can be used to approach complex problems.
These guys all were masters of creating art that depicted universal experiences that could be appreciated by us all. They were spontaneous and intuitive in their approaches at first and then built discipline and persistence as their projects evolved.
So to understand creativity , we must understand the character of the artist.
Pablo Picasso chose to express himself through painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and ceramics. He was the first artist to enjoy worldwide fame thanks to the mass media of the twentieth century. He created over 147,000 works of art, making him one of the most prolific artists ever.
In 1907 he painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a total departure from the commonly held artistic ideas of the time. This painting is considered the most significant work of art in the development of cubism.
Picasso was a passionate man, with a short temper, a large ego yet he was also a pacifist. His proclivity towards peace was best expressed in the massive 1937 painting Guernica based on the savage bombing of this Spanish city by the German Luftwaffe. This incredible painting is considered the most powerful political image in modern art.
The 1957 film ” The Mystery of Picasso,” recorded a master at work. You can witness a score of Picasso’s works materialize, stroke by stroke, from blank canvas to the final work of art. The film is made with a stationary camera focused on a translucent piece of paper that Picasso sits on the other side of as he draws and paints. The camera records his work on film as though Picasso is painting on the other side of the movie screen.
The creative process Picasso exhibits is illuminating. He begins very simply, the way a problem solver should always start. He draws simple forms in bold black lines lines on the white picture plane and then adds various layers of color and a few layers of texture. The sketches evolve the as he works and show us that our perceptions of things often depend on the moment they are being perceived.
Notice how as Picasso’s paintings evolve, there are no set rules, just as there are no set rules for problem solving. Picasso supposedly was as astonished at watching the film of his process as we are.
Picasso’s work teaches us that the path of creativity is about sensations and desire occurring over time. The aim shouldn’t be about forcing coherence and logic but to build upon instinct and feeling.
About the motivation for producing art Picasso wrote, “You should have an idea of what it is you want to do…but it should be a vague idea.”
That leaves room for spontaneity, exploration, discovery, and serendipity. Freedom!
Chaplin was one of the most creative and influential filmmakers ever. He acted in, directed, scripted, produced, and after the advent of sound, scored all of his own films.
Up until his last movies, Chaplin never shot with a working script. He would start with a story in his mind and constantly retool it, often shooting hours of scenes that wouldn’t make the final cut until he was satisfied. He spent his nights critiquing the rushes with his assistant directors. Chaplin and Picasso shared a similar technique working with no predictable road to follow. Both artists had spontaneous and intuitive approaches at first and then built discipline and persistence into their projects as they evolved.
City Lights turned out to be the longest and most difficult project of Chaplin’s career. He ended up spending two years and eight months to produce the film, with almost 190 days of shooting.
Incredibly the finished film looks effortless and flows smoothly never once feeling forced or labored.
He spent weeks on the deceptively easy sequence where the Tramp meets the blind flower girl for the first time. The effort was spent on setting up the premise of the story. In three minutes using only action, he establishes their meeting, the Tramp’s realization that she is blind, his instant fondness and pity for the girl and her misconception that this little homeless guy is a rich. I say it was time well spent. Genius.
This is completely lost on contemporary filmmakers. All they do is destroy the magic of cinema by going on and on about the difficulties and suffering they endured to make their movies. Do they spend that time on the story? Do they labor over giving us a great premise with interesting characters! Of course not. All that time is spent on digital effects, choreographed fight scenes and airbrushing the wrinkles off of the Sex and the City chicks.
They work so hard on making it look “realistic”. Thousands of man hours, millions of dollars are spent trying to make Harry Potter zipping around on a broomstick look real. Then what do they do? They completely undermine their “effort” by treating us to behind the scenes “this is how we pulled it off crap.”
Am I the only one that sees the utter stupidity of this?
But, I digress.
Comedy. The brutal art form where if you succeed, “you kill” and if you fail, “you die.”
The 1936 movie Modern Times shows several elements crucial for problem solving. It’s important to remember that words and actions can only be understood in context. Perceptions of situations and the situations themselves are two different realities. In this film, Chaplin illustrates the struggle against the dehumanization of man by machine in a context of humorous misunderstandings and conflicting perceptions.
In comedy, as in problem solving, there needs to be an ease and spontaneity of acting that can’t be associated with seriousness. Chaplin illustrates that through humor, we see in what seems rational, the irrational; in what seems important, the unimportant. Humor also heightens our sense of well-being and preserves our sanity. Spontaneity is one of the greatest requirements of comedy, creativity, and problem solving.
Chaplin’s comedy is based upon actual life, with twist or exaggeration, to bring out what is real. Chaplin said that he didn’t want perfection in the acting. A perfect picture would seem artificial mechanical. He wanted the human touch, so we would love the picture for its imperfections. Similarly,a solution to a complex problem may not be perfect for everyone, so it must have a human touch in order for it to be acceptable.
Formed in 1960 and disbanded in 1970 The Beatles are arguably the most dominant pop artists of the second half of the twentieth century. Their influence on popular culture extended far beyond their roles as rock stars, as they branched out into film and even became spokesmen for their generation.
John Lennon was a singer-songwriter, poet, artist, and peace activist. Lennon was a master of turning things upside down to create humor. It showed up often in the Beatles’s music and many television appearances. Once when asked if Ringo Starr was “the best drummer in the world”, Lennon said, “He isn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles”.
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’.? They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
— John Lennon
John was married twice and had two children. He was assassinated in New York in 1980.
Paul McCartney is listed as the most successful musician and composer in popular-music history. Aside from his musical work, McCartney is an actor, a painter and an advocate for animal rights and vegetarianism. He has five children by two women. One of McCartney songs is: Picasso’s Last Words.
George Harrison was an accomplished gardener who adopted Hinduism later in life. He had one son. Harrison died of cancer and his last rites were performed according to Hindu tradition, with his ashes scattered in the holy River Ganges.
Ringo Starr was the last to join the Band. Ringo has three children and was the first of The Beatles to become a grandfather. Starr played the Mock Turtle in the film version of Alice in Wonderland. He has acted in several films, and voiced animals in cartoon shows and narrated children’s series in television.
The Beatles also had a film career, beginning with A Hard Day’s Night in 1964, a black-and-white documentary about a short period in the life of The Beatles. In 1965 came Help!, a Technicolor extravaganza shot in exotic locations with a thin, plot about Ringo’s finger! Then in 1967 came the Magical Mystery Tour followed shortly by the animated Yellow Submarine. Finally, the documentary of a band in terminal decline, Let It Be was shot over an extended period in 1969; the music from this formed the album of the same name, which although recorded before Abbey Road, was their final release
The Beatles are the perfect band for exemplifying a peaceful attitude toward conflict. Their songs are replete with ideas, concepts, and messages of peace and harmony.
In the Beatles’s lyrics one rediscovers values for solving problems, “We can work it out”, teamwork “All Together Now” and “Help” , acceptance and the connection between people who are different from each other “Let It Be”, the use of love and kindness to get results “All you Need is Love” and “A Taste of Honey” , money is not everything “Can’t Buy me Love”. The lyrics to each of these songs are familiar, but few of us grasp their true meaning.
It’s vital to understand the artists’ personalities in the context in which they existed and HOW they did their work be it painting, movie making, or music.
Changing prejudices is one of the jobs of an artist. With our work we must create new understandings of the world.
Am I saying art and creativity are the solutions to the world’s problems?
Drink to Picasso, drink to his health, you know he can’t drink any more.
Special thanks to the band Elken for the song “Don’t’ be long The Beatles v Elken”
Mark your calendars Anime fans! July 1-3, 2011
It’s the Am2con! The most anticipated anime music and manga summer convention in southern CA! Established in 2010, the am2con is a multi-day (3 days) event with no general attendance/badge purchase requirement and is aspiring to be a key meeting place for fans that share a common interest in Asian music, Animation/Anime Comics/Manga.
AM2 will be held on July 1-3, 2011 at the Anaheim Convention Center in sunny Anaheim, California.
Be sure to stop by the Man vs. Art Table in Artist Alley and say “Hi!”