Big Design Talk - Produce like Picasso, Part 2

 Last month we discussed how we could take the unique work ethic of artist Pablo Picasso and apply it to our lives. Through the five P’s of Productivity you can be well on your way to improving your potential and maximizing your strengths. These P’s include: Passion, Purpose, Proficiency, Persistence and Partnership. At the Big Design in Dallas, Brian Sullivan and J. Schuh presented a highly entertaining talk that left you feeling motivated and ready to conquer your career.

We already took a look at the first two steps, Passion and Purpose. Let’s take a deeper dive into the final three steps.


“I am doing that which I cannot do, in order to learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso started his path in art at an early age. He was taught brush technique by his father, Jose Ruiz and attended the Barcelona School of Fine Arts. At the ripe young age of 14, his father rented him a studio to practice his talents. Picasso preferred to work in solitude and focus strictly on his work. He allowed animals to go into the studio, including dogs, cats and a monkey. He was also very particular about his work and would not allow for maids to come in to clean the studio. Any wrong move and a masterpiece that he was working on could be ruined.
Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 9.35.18 AMPicasso was very dedicated to his schedule, and when he had to share his studio he set a schedule for everyone else as well. He took his art very seriously and would not let anyone get in the way. His artistic nature would get the best of him at times when he was bored at school. Picasso would skip classes to visit museums and do his own research. The theory was to always to continue practicing. Every moment was spent toward improving his skill. Picasso began to join networks that would bring him together with other artists. Tertulia was a frequent term used, an informal gathering of artists and musicians. His first network was The Four Cats. Throughout these gatherings he would get the opportunity to talk about art, music, current events, literature and more.

Proficiency Points of Picasso:

  1. Move beyond just pushing pixels.
  2. Get an education and learn on your own.
  3. Research, research, research.
  4. Practice, practice, practice.
  5. Network, network, network.


Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 10.38.46 AM“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” One of the most important aspects to staying productive is setting a routine and sticking to it. That is exactly what Pablo Picasso did. Every day was just like the day before. Wake up, eat, work, nap, work, eat, work, and sleep. This ongoing routine kept him persistent in his efforts to be an outstanding artist. Picasso’s popularity grew, and so did his number of visitors. Artists, reporters, Gls, resistance fighters and art dealers all stopped in to pay a visit to this famed artist. The spotlight forced Picasso to open up his studio every Thursday, which ultimately threw off the perfected schedule he maintained.

Keeping a driven attitude involved developing good work habits. Picasso nailed down a work habit that worked for him:

  1. Produces rough sketches.
  2. Explores alternatives.
  3. Iterate his sketches.
  4. Reduces alternatives.
  5. Begins his project.
  6. Picks workable designs.
  7. Took photos in later years.
  8. Finishes his work.
  9. Documents in a journal.

He was persistent in his projects and making sure they were the absolute best they could be. Settling for second best was not an option. He explored several areas of art and mastered them all. Prints, ceramics, stage designs, costumes, sculptures and paintings were all areas that Picasso aspired to dabble in. Persistence was engrained in his work ethic and settling was not something he was willing to do Working towards being his best possible version and maximizing his artistic skills was the only option for Picasso. He frequently would not it right on the first try, or even the second. But he proved that continuing to perfect his artwork and tweak it would gain him success in the end.

Persistence didn’t end in his art studio;, he was persistent when pursuing his artwork to sellers. Exhibiting his work in other countries did not come natural at first. Picasso had no exhibits in Paris until the 1930s. He remained persistent with the Blue Period, which did not initially sell. Twenty years later, these paintings attract the most money at an auction of all of Picasso’s periods.

Persistence Points of Picasso

  1. Your creative process beats blocks.
  2. Develop a schedule and good work habits.
  3. See your setbacks as learning experiences.
  4. Master new disciplines to solve problems.
  5. Empty yourself, fill up with new challenges.
  6. Do not have the fear to begin, again.


This element in productivity could be considered the most critical. Picasso found support from his family, mentors and networks. Even rivals and collaborators were able to increase his productivity and make him work harder. His childhood family support played an intricate role in his career. His Uncle Salvador paid his tuition for art school and his mother consistently wrote him letters while he was in Paris. Knowing that he had a support system and partnerships to help drive his talents only increased his moral. Without his partnerships, Picasso would have not had the same opportunities to excel. His father was his early mentor and was the one to teach him the technique of a brush. Picasso says, “Every time I draw a man, I instantly think of my father.”

Pablo Picasso had other mentors that include Max Jacobs and Guillaume Apollinaire. Max Jacobs was a poet who taught Picasso how to speak French. For a short time, they even shared an apartment together. Guillaume Apollinaire was Picasso’s first critic to review his Cubism period. Other inspiration came from his connections with Tertulia. Writer Ernest Hemingway and journalist Leo Stein were among this elite group. Others like the famed dancer Isadora Duncan and writer Gertrude Stein also grew a partnership with Picasso.

The idea that your rival may bring out the competitive side is not too far off for Picasso. He had a historic rival with Henri Matisse. “No one has ever looked atScreen Shot 2015-03-18 at 11.33.32 AM Matisse’s paintings more carefully than I; and no one has looked at mine more carefully than Matisse.” Their friends loved the rivalry that went on between to two artists, and even encouraged it. You can see their rivalry live on in their artwork. Picasso’s Young ladies of Avignon (1906) was a response to Matise’s Joy of Life (1905). The rivalry grew on for years, but when looking at the bigger picture these artists both really respected each other. They were competitive and constantly wanted to keep up with one another, but at the end of the day they had a mutual understanding. Matisse and Picasso would insult each other, but when someone else would take a stab it was not considered respectful and rather taken in poor taste.

Partnerships are what allow us to grow and blossom.

Partnership Points of Picasso:

  1. Partnerships affect your productivity.
  2. Your family sets you up for success.
  3. Mentors educate and advise you.
  4. Your network will inspire you.
  5. Rivals push you in different ways.
  6. Collaborators expand your boundaries.

Taking these fundamental elements to productivity that Pablo Picasso used can only strengthen your work ethic. Aside from your career, passion and purpose and proficiency and persistence and partnerships are important to consider in all aspects of life. I want to thank Brian Sullivan and J. Schuh for their motivating talk that inspired me to summarize and share.

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