Guernica – Our take on it

For this task we were asked to study Picasso’s Guernica  and use it as inspiration to create a mural depicting the message of our Manifestos. My group immediately set to work drawing up ideas and sketches. The first hurdle to overcome was the subject the piece would reflect. Guernica, as much as it is filled with motion, depicts a single, static event. Our work needed to convey a dynamic change, a resolution to improve.

We were provided with three A2 pages which would be placed side by side in portrait layout to roughly match the dimensions of Guernica to far smaller scale. We decided to use this to break up the piece into events. The trick here would be to have each piece represent a separate event while integrating them into one unbroken piece. We decided the the three sections would represent (left to right) the cruelty that animals both wild and domestic face, the message of the manifesto being acted on and then our ideal would be on the right.

Before we even began to work, we drew up a number of sketches, both on paper and digitally to hash out the placement of various elements.

We were certain that our centerpiece would be the heart featured in our manifesto inspired diorama. But we also came upon several other important aspects. I had the idea of running fencing along the base of the canvas that would be broken down and crushed by the time it lead into the center of the image. This would symbolize cruel captivity being brought to an end. We also wanted to incorporate Picasso’s rearing horse into the left section of the image as it would fit with the suffering we were attempting to convey.

At this point we were still in debate about the medium which we would use, we decided to create as detailed a sketch as we could to allow us more time to decide. The more detailed the sketching, the less time we would need to colour the work.

Guernica is a very dark piece, its contrast is striking and brings the image to life without the need for colour. Shades or white, cream, grey and black are enough for the simplistic, heavy defined lines of cubism to be vivid. For this reason, we elected to use thick poster paint at first. We detailed highlighted the individual forms before plastering the background dark grey and black.

Our final edition to the piece was a decision I played no part in as I was absent. The group felt the heart in the center was lacking gravitas and decided to fill it with images of animals, zoologists and animal rights activist, including David Attenborough. Before painted over that in vivid scarlet paint that nevertheless allowed the audience to make our the images beneath.

The finished product

Overall I am very happy with the outcome of our piece. The contrast between dark and light is clear, the poster paint was a good medium to work with. We attempted to incorporate significant aspects of the original in our piece. The outstretched arm holding a lit torch represents liberty. The screaming civilian has been adapted to represent the imprisonment of those who poach and trade in animals illegally and the horse stands as testament to the cruelty suffered by animals.

We were rather hamstrung by the fact that we had to paint the sections individually as we didn’t have a large enough space to paint them as one piece. This led to some abrupt ending of lines that were intended to flow through the sections. However the silver lining is that we managed to achieve the flowing effect in some areas making it look purposeful. We received more positive feedback than expected in fact.

Corporate Greed
Biased Media

Here are pieces by two other groups that I was particularly drawn to. Both employ interesting mediums make great use of the style of Guernica while remaining entirely unique pieces. The first depicts the world drowning in discarded consumer waste. The second depicts the confusing landscape of free, unvetted information that surrounds and consumes so many, backing up wrong headed and unsubstantiated views and unfairly tarnishing others.


Author: David Rothwell

I am a Graphic Communication student at Cardiff Metropolitan School of Art and Design If you like any of my work, have feedback (good or bad) or would like to get in touch, please do

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