The first part is a series of quick marker and ink drawings. The filmmaker developed a technique showing the drawing developing in real time. Picasso sat and drew on one side of a special cloth and the camera was on the other side, registering every mark he made. The drawings become repetitive but certainly offer a quick first glimpse into his artistic process. The best ones are the most abstract, black lines and circles filling the page, coming alive to acquire depth and vibrancy.
The breathtaking section followed the development of three paintings, with images taken every few minutes. The first is the head of a goat. Starting from a simple, loose line drawing, he worked until it took on an expressive life of its own. What’s most interesting is to see how much he reworked the painting - every single part of it going from light to dark and sometimes back to light, detail to non-detailed, colours changing throughout as well. He was experimenting throughout. The final product is a stunner and in this case, he actually says off camera that it took five hours. It was a jaw-dropper to understand just how much he worked every square inch of the canvas. I assumed that the most famous painter of the twentieth century would know what he wanted when he started a painting and simply carried it out. Given his work appears so loose and quick, I did not think he needed so much trial and error - obviously a false assumption.
The shock only grew with the next painting, a nude woman reading. In this case, the process is even more dramatic, at a certain point he scrapes away all his work and starts over again. In this case, the face was where almost all the effort was concentrated. Seeing the changes and the various moods expressed by each iteration was amazing. At the same time, other parts retained the looseness of the initial sketch. At the final stage, he integrated collaged papers into the painting.
The final painting is an inspiration for all struggling artists. It’s a collection of vignettes of beach scenes - waterskiing, houses, people standing. In this case he worked every single section over and over and over again. One of the central figures is a woman, who never stops changing size and gesture. In this case, even the genius overworked his piece, eventually saying off camera that it’s really going badly and he wants to start over. He does and the final finished painting is much more in line with his later work - people who look similar to Henry Moore sculptures. He should have stopped halfway through the initial version as it was amazing, but he didn’t. He was searching for more and risked failure to achieve it. So the takeaway for me is that risk and failure are part of the artistic process as well.
My conclusion is that Picasso’s process was to go down a path and express his visual idea according to his style - but he didn’t stop there. He went further, pushing his style to greater individual expression through trial, error and experimentation.
The sad note of the film is that all the work he created during the filming was destroyed - the only record of it is in the film. Too bad, I would have happily taken those pieces for myself given the chance.