Procreate | 29.7cm x 21cm | 2022

Client: Personal
Date: 2022

01. Background

I have been curious about Cubism and wondered how I could execute it. Compared to other art movements, it felt daunting yet intriguing. Here are the reasons why I was attracted to Cubism:

  1. I like how the objects are still legible. Despite the fragmented perspective, the viewer can decipher the artwork. 
  2. Second, I wanted to know how to create this artwork. Generally, it is easier to paint based on references and follow the rules found in a photo. However, the question remains. How does one copy from references and later break the rules by breaking the rules of perspective?

On a personal note, I created Mice during my period of anxiety in April. Many things were out of my control except for creating art. I chose to do Mice because they are part of my life. One is a daily object used in work, and the other is my Chinese zodiac. These mice may seem trivial, but it is functional and cultural in my life.

02. Approach

First, I researched the Cubism art movement in the early 20th century. According to Tate Modern, there are two types of Cubism, which are Analytical and Synthetic. Analytical Cubism was the earlier phase of Cubism, which ran from 1908-1912. The artworks are characterised by the “interweaving planes their muted tones in grey, black or ochres.” Meanwhile, Synthetic Cubism came after Analytical Cubism — characterised by its simpler and brighter shapes. In addition, Synthetic Cubism has elements of collage in their compositions, such as newspapers.

Second, I viewed some Youtube videos about creating Cubism. I particularly like this video from Ehow. I learnt the basic approach to creating a Cubism piece, such as playing around with sizes, breaking them apart, and using shading to indicate the depth of the layers.

Third, I could not understand despite watching the Ehow video. Fortunately, I managed to find an article by Christopher Jones on Medium. He wrote about the fundamentals of light and shadow from different periods, including Cubism. With these articles and video tutorials, I summarise my learnings into these points*:

  1. Despite the fragmented pieces, the object of the painting still needs to be legible.
  2. Light and shadow are important in Cubism. We cannot observe the form or depth of layers without using light and shadow.
  3. Grids are essential in Cubism. The grid creates a structured composition, especially for Rules of Third. Despite the irregular fragments, the grid system ensures that its object does not become too cluttered or indecipherable.

With this acquired knowledge, I decided to create a piece similar to Analytical Cubism by using monochrome colours.

*This is my current knowledge about Cubism. If there are any gaps in my understanding, I will update them through my subsequent posts. 

03. Process

Girl with a Mandolin (Fanny Tellier)

Pablo Picasso, 1910, Girl with a Mandolin (Fanny Tellier), oil on canvas, 100.3 x 73.6 cm, Museum of Modern Art New York. Artwork taken from Wikipedia.

Though my favourite Cubist artist is Juan Gris, I wanted to work on something that does not need collages, which was Analytical Cubism. The Analytical Cubism piece that caught my eye was Girl with a Mandolin by Pablo Picasso. I chose this piece because it is a straightforward piece with two subjects in the painting.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Unlike most Analytical Cubism pieces, I did not choose muted colours. I gravitated toward the colours blue and purple during my anxiety. I took the theory of analogous colours, which works out quite well. As Procreate can create a palette from a picture, I took the Andy Burden’s photo from Unsplash as a palette.

After deciding on the colours, I began drawing the mice outline. I duplicated the layer and drew lines based on Procreate grid. From there, I started to erase the grid lines or enlarge different elements of the mice.

I began filling in the colours for this artwork. In order to differentiate the wall and floor, I used tints blues and purples on top, and darker shades at the bottom.

Once I was satisfied with the look, I added highlights and shadows using two types of brushes — the acrylic paint brush and the airbrush. These brushes are used to create depth and texture for the fragments of the piece. Adding highlights and shadows to different fragmented pieces gives an illusion of paper sticking onto each other like a collage.

I added a layer with shadows after adding the colours.

I wanted some of the shapes to stand out, so I added thick white lines to emphasize certain shapes.

Using a white airbrush, I decide to spray on highlighted parts to create texture.

Finally, I used a black airbrush to create texture at the shadow areas.

04. Challenges

The first challenge is utilising the knowledge and forming an artwork that reflects me. As explained in the process section above, I took time to research and determine the direction of this artwork.

The second challenge is getting used to Procreate. It took me a while to get used to Procreate as it was my second time using it. I will continue to hone my skills in Procreate to create cleaner work.

05. Final Thoughts

I found that working on a Cubism piece on Procreate is helpful. If I painted it physically, it would have taken too much time to adjust the grid and erase the unnecessary parts.

Generally, I am happy with this work, especially in experimenting with Cubism and Procreate. While it is not polished, at least I have begun a piece to continue honing my skills and knowledge.