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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics

First off, no, that’s definitely not a Picasso. And neither is this:

While moving my daughter into her first post-college apartment in West Philadelphia last week, I noticed a tattoo parlor down the block (part of the seedy influence of U Penn a few more blocks away) and asked her if she was thinking about getting one (or another one since she came back from her summer camp teaching gig with a strawberry on her leg). She said if she did, it would be a “Picasso Athena.” Since Picasso never did a painting or drawing of Athena, she clarified that she meant something iconically Athena in the style of Picasso, presumably his later-career line drawings, not his cubist work.

So I took that as my instructions. She also said my palette tends to be a little too dark for her decorative taste (her studio apartment wisely features lots of yellow), so I figured she wouldn’t like my usual black and red variants:

To be clear, I was thinking about a wall poster, not another leg tattoo. If you’re interested, here’s my process. As usual, I like the lunatic limitations of Microsoft Paint and the weird creative leaps they foster.

I started with some photo research, both Picasso’s line drawings and lots of Athenas:


Once I found a pose I liked, I made a quick sketch using the mouse on my laptop, then overlaid it again and again and again, deleting areas, experimenting with color transparencies, and just sort of screwing around to see what emerged. It’s a haphazardly idiosyncratic approach that I’ve become inappropriately proud of.  Laid out all together here, it’s also vaguely reminiscent of Picasso’s bull sequence process:

I also experimented with overlays from a Van Gogh (because yellow), but didn’t love the results enough:

I think the rawly digital red and yellow might be better:

I’m still trying to figure out a way to combine my favorites:

If you like any of these, and if your daughter has also moved into her first studio apartment, feel free to make a copy for her. (As with a previous post about my son moving out for his first year of college, it falls under the empty-nest fair-use clause of U.S. copyright law.)


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