Would Picasso Still Be Picasso, If He Had An iPhone?

“Everybody has the same energy potential.
The average person wastes his in a dozen little ways.
I bring mine to bear on one thing only: my paintings
and everything else is sacrificed to it - myself included.” Pablo Picasso

I find that when my body and mind are relaxed and uninterrupted, I sometimes manage to drift into what I like to call “ponder time.” It’s a free thinking space where my creative juices sometimes seethe. When I relax, rest and doze – interesting and random insights about life and its nuances sometimes bubble to the surface.

So I should have really made the most of a rain-soaked Sunday morning. With no plans made, there was no better time to stretch out in bed. To listen to the rain and let my mind wander. To enjoy the warmth.

Regrettably though, moments after opening my eyes, I rolled over and switched on my damn iPhone.

Instantly, I was overwhelmed with an abundance of information that I was only half interested in and half reading. Once again, I had managed to concede my creatively-effervescent doze to that lazy technological mind-trap. Bouncing around the internet and culling unnecessary emails, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at my lack of self-discipline. “Ponder time” had been lost.

Later on – out of bed, sipping coffee, peering out of the window into the rain – I thought: “will I ever find some uninterrupted downtime to give my old head that space it needs to create?” I started to plan the things I needed to change. I wondered just how much worldwide creative focus out there was being thwarted by the temptations of technology. I wondered if even someone like Pablo Picasso would have succumbed to it.


When I need inspiration, I often think of specific artists who have crafted numerous idea seedlings into pieces of poetic tangibility. Prolific artists who have managed to master the temptation of procrastination. People who understand that inspiration must find you working.

And Pablo Picasso is very much an inspiration for me, in this sense. Aside from his painting, where Picasso fascinates me most is in his bull-like self-belief and in his unparalleled creative output. Creating tens of thousands of pieces of art – Picasso practised, pondered, painted and crafted most days of his life. He was famed for his focus, self-discipline and hard work. His was a drive to leave an undeniable legacy and to sit forever at that posthumous table of ‘The Greats’.

Like all artists, he thrived on inspiration. Picasso regularly visited Paris’ galleries, especially the Louvre. There he’d sit and peer at the works he loved – studying them, taking notes and stealing ideas. He constantly read poetry and literature. He would also often visit the studios of his peers to review their latest works in order to torment his fierce competitiveness.

Experience too eventually developed him into a savvy businessman, self-marketer and cunning salesman. He would pit his dealers against each other for weeks when selling a new piece. Unlike many of The Greats, Picasso was very rich whilst still alive. Vibrantly social too, well into old age, Picasso allowed his ego to be regularly stroked by a coterie of avant-garde bohemian elite.

So, as I watched and listened to the meditative rain, I thought about Pablo Picasso. Here was a curious, social, narcissistic self-marketer. A man who’d managed to trim off most of life’s fatty distractions. Had he somehow stumbled into our world today, I mused, would the distractions of our technology have chipped away at his focus? Would Picasso still be Picasso if he had an iPhone?
  • What sort of stuff would he have shared on Instagram?
  • Would he have agreed times to meet with Matisse, Braque and Modigliani using Whats App?
  • How would have the online critiques about his work affected his confidence?
  • Which want-to-be lovers would have tried to grab his attention with SMS?

How would his focus have been watered down in a dozen little ways?


Technology today allows us to create far more collaboratively than ever before. Our new collaborative skills have driven an unprecedented burst in innovation. And this innovative burst has allowed some fast-moving minnow disruptors to topple the dynasties of the old, slow-moving corporate giants.

Our new technology also allows little-known artists to be more easily discovered, shared and talked about. Musicians no longer need a record label to make it big. Obscure galleries use social media to promote new names. We can write just about anything these days and be reasonably confident that at least one person will read it.

However, when it comes to actually creating independent art, do all of our new whizz-bang tools actually help?

Surely all we need to create is a pen and paper, a camera with film or a battered old guitar. And along with some bare-bone tools, don’t we just need some good old-fashioned “disconnected time” to help us to observe, listen and feel? If anything, technology can infiltrate the daydream space in which ideas seem to roar. It can amplify the background noise and distract.

And with our faces constantly buried in screens, we’re missing much. We’re forgetting to notice all of the natural inspiration around us. When I switch off and observe, I find an abundance of inspiration reveals itself: the eccentric old lady at the bus stop; the oncoming summer; the dysfunctional family in the corner house; the soothing sound of the Sunday rain. It is the observing and experiencing of real life – not reproduced electronic snippet-life – that the artist needs most.

O course, any stumbled-upon insight is merely the starting point of the creative process. The path to crafting a thought into something more tangible takes persistence, refinement and self-belief. I find my buzzing smartphone, with all of its wizardry, often interrupts this focus. If I’m not careful, my ‘energy potential’ gets distracted and my single-mindedness, challenged.


So would old Pablo’s prolific nature have been watered down by today’s technology? In my opinion – probably, yes. But whatever your point of view, it’s an enthralling question to think about. Of course, the reality is that we’ll never ever know. The only thing we do know for sure is that Picasso created thousands of pieces of original art that still entertain and educate us today.

And whether I’m right or wrong, what I do know for sure is that I have a self-discipline problem with technology. I also know that I am not the only one. Thankfully though, I know too that ‘real life’ is riddled, sprinkled and jam-packed with inspiration. And that if I’m patient and observant enough, I can see it and I can feel it.

Ultimately though, I’m beginning to know that if I can just switch off my phone, lie quietly in bed and sometimes just listen to the morning rain, then an interesting idea may just arrive. And if I can run with my idea - if I can craft it, refine it and sculpt it – then god, or perhaps even possibly just Pablo, can only really know.

Joseph O'Donoghue

Discussion and comment about Australia's young, vibrant and emerging culture - our own blank canvas.

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