What we can learn from Picasso

This weekend I went to an exhibit at the Courtauld Gallery in London on Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901. The paintings in the current show were ones from his very first show and it demonstrates how the young painter took on and transformed the styles and subjects of modern artists of the age such as Van Gogh, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec. This exhibit demonstrates his incredible budding creativity – brimming with vitality and energy. You would just see it in his paintings with his dynamic brush strokes and choice of unlikely subjects such as prostitutes, dwarfs and drunks.

That exhibit of 1901 would set him on his path of being one of the most influential and successful painters of the 20th Century. Years ago, I had seen another Picasso exhibit which displayed his ceramic works when he was elderly. In both shows, his determination to create inspired me to think about what makes us creative. I went searching for some research on what we can learn from the works and quotes from Picasso.

Here are a couple of ideas.

“The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.”

Daydreaming, alcohol and laughing are all good for creativity, studies show. People who daydream score much higher on various tests of creativity. The same is true for laughing. When people are exposed to videos of stand-up comedy, they solve about 20% more insight puzzles. Then there’s being a little intoxicated. Students who were given a battery of word problems where people have to find one additional word that goes with a three words, like pine, crab and sauce. Drunk students solve nearly 30% more of these word problems than their sober friends. It seems there’s a creative advantage of not paying attention in having a couple of glasses of wine or beer.

Good artists copy. Great artists steal.

Paris at the turn of the century was a magnet for artists and Picasso hung out with other creative types in the cafes of Montmartre. Picasso counted writers, poets and other painters such as Matisse among his close friends and I’m sure those late night discussions over a bottle of wine helped them all come up with new creative approaches to their art.

Inspiration exists but it has to find you working.

Picasso himself painted 3 pictures a day. He was constantly adapting and changing his style, creating and adapting to events. When one of his best friends committed suicide, his painting became more melancholy and changed

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist when he grows up.

Research into creativity shows when people are told to imagine themselves as seven year olds, they score significantly higher on tests that ask them to think of different ways of solving a problem such as trying to invent alternative uses for an old car tire.

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