» How Picasso Found Subject Matter for his Painting
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How Picasso Found Subject Matter for his Painting


“Paul in a Clown Suit” 1924. The painting is of Picasso’s son, Paul.


Today’s article is taking a look at Picasso, his paintings, and how he finds his subject matter. How do you get the subject matter for your paintings or photography? Well, photography subject’s are easy for me it seems, but when I sit down and try to draw I have no idea what I should sketch. Keep in mind I’m not great at drawing, but I would still like to sketch every now and then to see where I go with it. So again, what should I draw? Join in and see what we can learn from Picasso to inspire our work!

What to Draw

Yes, there’s lots of things I could draw, but what defines me? I need to practice proportions, anatomy, shading…all kinds of stuff…that’s why copying the masters is good. Copying someone is far from unique though. They say “sex sells,” but I don’t want to default to the nude female like everyone else…I’d rather create something of my own. It finally hit me when I was watching an excellent documentary about Picasso and his life.

Below is the video which sparked the inspiration. There is a part in the video where they say Picasso’s paintings are a diary of his life. As we look at the examples below we can see this is true. The majority of his work includes the people and events in his life. This is amazing, why didnt I think of that?! I’ve been inspired by Bouguereau, Degas, Van Gogh…I really like love their paintings, but if I were to draw a Satyr, Ballerina, or Sunflower, I wouldn’t really feel like it was expressing what I wanted.

So, now that I know inspiration can be pulled from my own life, the possibilities are endless! I can draw or paint scenes from my childhood. Good memories, bad, exciting adventures, loved ones, pets, toys…so much to choose from and it will all mean something special to me. If I run out of inspiration there for some reason I can always pull it from the impressions the world makes on me. What I find humorous, sad, or exciting. I can even use different symbols (see Day 364) to represent things in my art. I hope this inspires you to take a look at your own life and possibilities for the subject matter of your art.

Below you’ll find Picasso’s paintings as well as a little description of who it was in relationship to him. Thanks for the support everyone, see you next time!


“Asleep” 1932. The model of this painting is Picasso’s mistress Marie Therese.


“Bathers” 1918. Picasso spent all his summers at the beach, first at Biarritz, then on the Cote d’Azur or in Dinard. These journeys inspired him to create a series of works on the theme of bathers.


“Dora Maar au Chat” 1941. This is one of Picaso’s most valued depictions of his lover and artistic companion.


“Saltimbanques” 1905. The circus troupe is assembled as if departing, both literally and metaphorically, in terms of Picasso’s development. Picasso is again Harlequin, holding the little girl, possibly his beloved younger sister, Conchita, whose tragic death from diphtheria at the age of seven affected Picasso deeply. He bargained that he would never paint again if she survived, so her death created his first obsessive, recurrent connection between art, life and death in his work. The paunchy jester is the Symbolist Apollinaire, and the older boy-acrobat is either the poet Max Jacob or the poet Andre Salmon. Picasso’s lover of the time, Fernande, is probably the woman strangely separated from the group.


“Girl Before a Mirror” 1932. The young girl is Marie Therese Walter again and was painted multiple times by Picasso.


“Girl in a Chemise” 1904. This face is probably of new his mistress, Madeleine, featured in a series of erotic drawings.


[frame]“Maya with her Doll” 1938. As daughter Maya plays with her doll, adoring father Picasso plays with his latest artistic processing of space and colour. The plastic phase of figurative distortion is continued, while the characteristics of the face are pushed and remoulded, as though constructed from modelling clay.

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