Learning from ‘the man and the beast’: amazing Picasso exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Conversation with Picasso

“Go and do the things you can’t. That is how you get to do them.”

Things I have learned from Pablo Picasso:

– keep an open and curious mind – it will inform your creativity
– be open to change
– keep exploring and learning, don’t get stuck in your ways
– be free in your expression, don’t censure yourself
– be succinct and clear
– reduce to the max

Conversation with PICASSO

“I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else. ”

Conversation with PICASSO

“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.”

Conversation with PICASSO

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

“Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) remains one of the most celebrated artists of all time. Contemporary art critic Robert Hughes wrote: “No painter or sculptor, not even Michelangelo, [was] as famous as this in his own lifetime.” Picasso was a champion of abstract art, which has come to define the avant-garde in the 20th century.

A Spanish-born artist who spent his adult life in France, Picasso’s artistic production spans over six decades, making him one of the most prolific artists of the modern era. His celebrated Blue and Rose Periods (1901-1906) marked his first decade in Paris. These early canvases are known for their deep, cool palette, often featuring people from Picasso’s circle of friends, while the Rose Period brought warmer, brighter hues of orange and pink, with figures from the theatre, ballet, and circus.

Cubism in its Analytic and Synthetic phases (1909-1919) developed when Picasso joined forces with French artist Georges Braque, and the two began experimenting with the composition of the object and picture plane. As they dismantled and re-assembled forms into various states, often with multiple perspectives and angles, Cubism was born.

While embracing elements of Classicism and Surrealism in both artistic and literary circles into the mid decades of the last century, Picasso never stopped exploring new themes and techniques in his art. His total artistic output is estimated in the thousands, including paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, and ceramics. He married twice and had four children by three women.” (Source: WAG)

For more information about the amazing exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) – ‘Pablo Picasso, man and beast’ (May 13 until Aug 13, 2017), click here.


On woodcuts and wood engravings

The graphic work of Maurits Escher

Have you ever seen the amazing video clip showing one of Europe’s most original graphic artists, Maurits Escher (1898-1972), creating his last great woodcut print ‘Snakes’ in 1969? I have loved this image ever since I was a teenager, but it wasn’t until I saw the original in the Dutch city of The Hague last Summer that it really sank in: ‘Snakes’ is a perfect work of art.

Snake woodcut by M.C. Escher Escherhaus in The Hague

Snake woodcut
by M.C. Escher
Museum Escherhaus in The Hague

For many centuries woodcuts and engravings remained the only methods of reproducing more than one copy of a design. Maurits Escher mastered the technical processes after devoting decades of enthusiastic research into the characteristics of graphic materials.

Usually referred to as M. C. Escher, the Dutch artist is known for his often mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints.

“Anyone who applies himself, from his early youth, to the practice of graphic techniques may well reach a stage at which he begins to hold as highest ideal the complete mastery of his craft.” (M.C. Escher)

What is a Woodcut?

The design is drawn on to a flat block of wood and the areas between the lines of the design are chiselled away until they stand out in high relief. The block is then inked and the design is printed. If more than one colour is required, different blocks are used to print successively on to the same piece of paper, each one being in careful register with the preceding ones.

What is a Wood Engraving?

The woodcut was primitive, limited and tended to be crude. The wood engravings is the natural and exquisitely refined development of it and as with other forms of engraving reflected the subtlety of design and execution flowing out of more civilized taste and the use of finer tools. With this subtractive technique fibers from the end-grain of a woodblock get removed, whereas a woodcut is cut on a cross grain, or plank-side of a woodblock. “A wood engraving allows a variety of cutting techniques and is extremely durable. It lends itself well to illustration in publications as well as limited edition prints. It has a most interesting history of usage as well as an active contemporary application.”*

Difference between the 2 methods

In 1922, Escher left the School of Architecture and Ornamental Design in Haarlem, (Netherlands), having learnt graphic techniques from Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita – a teacher whose strong personality impressed him deeply. From him, Escher wrote, ‘I inherited his predilection for side-grained wood, and one of the reason for my everlasting gratitude to him stems from the fact that he taught me to how to handle this material.”

The main technical difference between the woodcut and the wood engraving is that the woodcut usually produces black lines on a white background, the wood being cut away from both sides of the line to be printed black, whilst the wood engraving gives an effect of white lines on a black background. Each cut of the engraving tool prints a white line. Great care must be used in inking the block and taking off each impression. This method of printing gives a desirable individual quality to each print.

More information about

*The Wood Engravers Network:
Since 1994, a group of printmakers, especially interested in wood engraving, have gathered and formed an organization called the Wood Engravers’ Network with over 200 members from the US, Canada, Europe and Asia.

Woodcuts and Wood Engravings from the Lloyd’s Collection

The Official Escher Website published by the M.C. Escher Foundation and The M.C. Escher Company.

Escher’s Biography

Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita (Amsterdam, 1868 – Auschwitz, 1944) was a graphic artist active in the years before the Second World War. He was born into a Jewish Family in Amsterdam and devoted himself to various techniques and mediums. He is primarily known for his woodblock prints, etchings, watercolours and drawings of birds, exotic animals, plants and flowers, and fantastical representations, both humorous and grim.

When good imagination trumps camera format

Felix Mueller on high-magnification macro photography 

Wildlife photography requires a lot of patience, skill and perseverance. “To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy”, Henri Cartier-Bresson* once said. When I saw the ‘Wildlife photographer of the year’ exhibition in Victoria, I remembered some beautiful shots of animals by Felix Mueller, a young photographer from Toronto. Let me introduce you to him and his work.

by Felix Mueller Copyright 2013

Magnificent insect
Copyright 2013 Felix Mueller

Felix Mueller, can you tell us the story behind this amazing picture?

Felix: After having bought a cheap 28mm film-era lens, I was interested in trying out a new technique that I saw on a Youtube video called “an introduction to high-magnification macro photography”.

What does that method require?

Felix: All that I needed was my new lens – but reversed – and my camera. I started by taking pictures of inanimate objects up close, but soon moved on to things that were both living and small enough to fit the frame.

Were insects a good start?

Felix:  Indeed – and they were perhaps the only objects that I could shoot as I would never harm an insect for a photograph. So I was very lucky to have found such a magnificent bug that didn’t move a lot.

I took a couple photos using the reversed lens technique I learned from the video, with it proving to be a real test of my steady hand to make sure the depth or field was right and that the dramatic features of the insect were captured in greatest detail.

portrait felix muellerHow old are you? And when did you first get excited about nature or wildlife photography?

Felix: I am 21 years old and my fondness for wildlife and nature began at a young age. My interest in wildlife photography came later, when I started taking pictures of local nature areas such as the County Forest and Nature Parks in Dufferin County, Ontario.

As for my nature photos of animals, these opportunities came seldom. But these photos are often the most rewarding ones, because you  capture such an amazing moment with the wildlife you share your environment with.

What kind of camera are you using?

Felix: I use a Pentax K7 with 2 lenses, a 28 mm film-era lens and a 28-300 Pentax AF.

Do you prefer digital or film photography?

Felix: My first camera was digital, even though I grew up knowing how to use my father’s old Ashai Pentax that he used on his travels. The truth is that both digital and film photography lend themselves to certain situations, and professional users of either format are more than capable of using their creativity and skill to produce the breathtaking shots, not the camera. In the end, it is most often a good imagination that trumps camera format. That being said, once the photos are taken, it is a different story entirely. In that case, I have to go with the digital camera, as you can take multiple photos, upload them quickly to the computer and sharing them is much easier.

Any other pictures you would like to share with my readers?

Felix: Oh yes, this baby red squirrel that I caught just as it was learning how to climb. It is one of my favourite photos because it captures a rare funny and positive moment.

Baby Squirrel Copyright 2013 F. Mueller

Baby Squirrel
Copyright 2013 F. Mueller

 … and a rather unusual one, too!

Felix: That is right, but then again baby animals are much more approachable than their jittery parents.

Thank you, Felix Mueller, for sharing your story with my readers.

Frog Copyright 2013 F. Mueller

Curious Frog
Copyright 2013 F. Mueller


Further information:

Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French photographer considered to be the father of photojournalism. He was an early adopter of 35 mm format, and the master of candid photography.

Interesting read:

Henri Cartier Bresson and wildlife photography

Wildlife photographer of the year 2013 winners revealed

Advice for young photographers

Magnum advice for young photographers



On good and great art – thoughts by Yehudi Menuhin

Have you ever read the book ‘Conversations with Menuhin’? The collection of informal, fascinating conversations in which the famous violinist, conductor and teacher Yehudi Menuhin talks about himself, is not just a book about making music. It is – as the Evening Times called it – ‘a rewarding lesson in humanity’.

I have been fascinated with the chapter about the purpose of the arts, particularly the following quote, which I would like to share with you today:

“There is an indefinable element which transforms, makes a work of art beautiful, and in its own way, perfect. (…) But the crucial difference between good art and great art – whether in literature, or music, or painting, or sculpture – is to be found in the quality of the original inspiration. The inspiration of genius is more deeply experienced, has greater unity, and is more far-seeing. The workmanship of genius has a natural sense of proportion; speaks of human elegance and understanding; and deeply touches our own life, thoughts, and dreams.”

When was the last time you dove into the arts and let yourself be inspired?  Visited a museum, went to the opera, explored local galleries, listened to music with your eyes closed, cried and laughed reading an outstanding novel? Why the arts? Because – as Auguste Rodin once said – “the main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.”


Robin Daniels: Conversations with Menuhin. First Futura Publications Edition. 1980. p. 108/109