Field group: Laura, Josh, Ffion and Jazmine.

Picasso’s Guernica


After a lecture about Picasso’s Guernica, we then had to create a mural – in the same groups as Monday – from our Race Equality Manifesto. We had to use black and white and one colour. First of all, we looked at the piece of work we did on Monday and thought about the types of imagery that was the strongest and we work best in this piece. We decided that the hand was the strongest piece of imagery and had this idea of the arms linking and fighting across the page. This would show the integration (and perhaps anti-integration) of races. The arms would come from two sides of the page, coming out of a window/door and then they would meet in a cluster in the middle.


In the lecture, he spoke about the composition of the piece and how it split up into different parts. Picasso does this in shapes of the imagery in different shades of colours. Initially, we thought about showing these shapes using triangular shaped newspaper so we set about creating a similar shape to the Picasso piece.


Once sticking them down, we started drawing and painting on the arms. The first idea we had was to have realistic arms and sharp, graphic shaped arms (like the work of Saul Bass). All the arms would overlap and then we would paint them slightly differently so that they were kind of like patch work, similar to the Picasso piece how he’s paint parts of an arm or leg in different shades of colour. The idea of having different shades of arms and having them overlapping, would also represent the diversity of cultures/races/ethnicities we proposed in our manifesto. After we’d painted all the arms, this is what we’d come up with:

Ideally, this was supposed to be the finished piece but it was far from it. We discussed the piece with the tutor and each other in the group. There was a huge cluster of just paint in the middle and the hands didn’t look like there were joined it was more just blobs of paint on the page. The ones that worked really well were the hands that were painting more realistically as this showed a sense of communication within the piece. Since our only way of really communicated our topic was through the medium of hand gestures, we wanted to focus on making those hands more realistic and have them positions in different gestures, such as, shaking hands, fist clenched, peace sign, etc. A point the tutor raised was that it didn’t have much connection to Picasso’s Guernica and we need to paint the piece is way that separates it into 3 parts; we decided to do this with black and white backgrounds so there was a clear indication of separation. Though this would mean changing the design slightly so that it could be different colours, we all agreed that this would add to communicating our concept of different races/cultures coming together and shining a light on racism.

As we began making the hands more realistic it made the piece a lot stronger. Realistic arms work a lot better alongside our concept because it makes the issue more real. In Picasso’s work, he has faces pulling different expressions. At the top of the page, we decided to have two faces back-to-back, black and white, to represent a couple of things: faces turning away could mean them both turning their back on each other – either ignoring the issue or ignoring each other – or the fact that their joined shows that they are integrated. We wanted to paint the faces in the same style of Picasso’s, so slightly odd-shaped heads and weird expressions. In the Guernica, there is a bull in the corner. We wanted to use this bull in some way to represent a negative part of our manifesto – racism as an issue – but instead of having it as realist, we used a play-on-words – “bull-ying” – showing a bit of humour in the piece but still on topic about how racism is bullying.

We were all in agreement that the changes we made were a lot better, so we set about continuing to improve this piece by adding in background colour and making the arms more realistic.


One of our main ideas, was having the arms coming out of each window and joining together, which represents people from all different races/cultures coming together and uniting. The windows weren’t very obvious and it looked as if the arms were coming from no where so we repainted the squares on each side, making it more darker/lighter and 3D (like the window showing in the Guernica on the right-hand side).

On the Guernica, there is an arm holding a candle. We needed something to represent why the middle part of the piece had a white background so we added in a cut-out of an arm with a candle to represent ‘shining a light on racism’. We had this as a cut out rather than paint it so that it had the same look as the bull.

Final piece:

I’m really proud of the final piece we have created. I think considering where we started it off, we turned it around massively. There’s a lot of detail in this piece, it’s not just focused on one part of the mural theres a lot of aspects and imagery to look at that explain the concept behind our manifesto. I think the hand gestures were definitely a good idea because they add depth to the piece and it makes it more personal with the realistic effect. We didn’t use any colour which I was worried it would be too dull without one but now seeing the final piece, I wouldn’t choose to add any colour in because the shades of black and white work just fine on their own.


Author: ellenreiddesign

First year Graphic Communication student at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

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