Breton’s Japanese Phase:

15- Breton-Japanism-phase

The History: This is my story and I’m sticking to it… for now.

Andre Breton isn’t the most recognizable face of art, but he has some memorably candid pictures taken of him. Some are obviously silly, and most are his serious face. I found one with pink glasses that seamed out of place and made him look like he had a bit of a bowl cut hairdo. The universe also showed me some of his Japanese phase paintings on the same search… I put the two together into this portrait.

The Technique: How I did this awesomeness!

The quality of the paper helps a great deal with this sort of drawing. I work the on a tabletop, because I like the mishaps that occur due to the chalk-dust buildup. Start with the light outline of the figure’s face, to situate the centre of your composition, drawn down the neck into the v-shape at the base of it… add the collar design, then slope down or up the shoulders. Next draw in the facial features, still lightly. Using a stronger pressure, rub the pastels into the face, neck and other areas, finish with the background. I have chosen not to rub and blend the colours too much with my fingers, as I like the textures the fast colouring achieves. I finish off my work by redrawing the outlines in a bolder black stroke and adding a little highlighting with white, as well as a little shadow with the black. As you will see in this series, the eyes are all coloured in completely as well. When it’s done, you will have lots of dry pastel dust on your paper. I suggest you lift the paper and pour & shake it off. Blowing it off will make an unholy mess of your workspace.

The Influence: Confessions of a Plagiarist, sort of

Andre Breton was, in my view separate from his work. He didn’t look like an artist, didn’t carry the flair or eccentricities of his contemporaries, except in the rare photograph. He followed the contemporary Isms of the times and innovated a few ideas of his own. It was the embracing of Japanese portraits and colours that seemed to trip him up. Matisse & Picasso fuelled this movement and the rest of the gang followed… well, this is what it appears like to me.  While they are not contemporaries, I found some awesomely playful self-portraits by the incredible Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto and combined them with an old photo of Breton to give you what I image might be Breton’s view on his world… through rose coloured glasses.

You’ll Know What To Do With It When you buy The Artist’s Stuff: Prints, Mugs, T-Shirts, Pillow, Shower Curtains, and other awesome stuff.

What inspires an artist?

“All they see” is the first and most literal answer.

For me, that is literally hundreds of gallery & museum exhibits, thousands of books, and tens of thousands of images online. 

When asked where to start a book collections, I almost always recommend these art bibles: Janson’s “History of ArtOR Phaidon’s “The Art BookBoth give a nice overview with good pictures. Once you’ve discovered what you are attracted to there most, you can then dig deeper into that area.

If I had to pick only a few of my major influences, which is a very difficult task, it would be Modigliani, Picasso, Van Gogh, & Andrew Wyeth. Here are a few of the best books I recommend from them.


Modigliani: Drawings 102 Colour Plates

Picasso:Man & His Work Part 1

Picasso: The Man and His Work – Part 2

The Mystery of Picasso

Picasso Line Drawings and Prints 

Picasso Portraits

Picasso Sculpture

Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Vincent van Gogh: The Lost Arles Sketchbook:   

Van Gogh: Complete Works

Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In

Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic

If you have the time, you are free to visit my GoodReads library to see a fraction of the books I’ve read. The ones I remember, that is. Or you can visit the ever growing collection of images on my Pinterest account.

The Materials: Quick! Order this stuff right now, AND You too, can make masterpieces!

Faber-Castell Creative Studio Non-Toxic Square Soft Pastel: The Review: I received this kit as a gift and used it sporadically until this project. The chalks are messy and not the easiest to make fast blends, and they are also very subtle in their diversity of tones and hues. One can make very strong colours with some rubbing and the blending is improved when you get your fingers dirty. The messy part allows one to reach for that Wabi Sabi beauty of making mistakes. These were a ball to get messy with. I had to supplement the kit with some additional Black & White sticks.

Canson Biggie Sketch Pads 18 In. X 24 In.:  The Review: This paper is awesome. It has a semi-smooth surface and is sturdy enough to take some rough strokes. It is miles above newsprint, which has it’s own beauty. It is like having a smooth watercolour paper. I’ve also used this for gouache and acrylic paints. Both adhere very well to it, as does the colour from the pastels.

Photoshop for Mac:  The Review: You could use the free “ MAC Photos” program or Picassa and possibly get the same results, but Photoshop offers you the flexibility of presenting yourself as a pro photographer, like no other program. There’s a reason it’s considered the best of the best, after all. So, this allows you the possibility of selling this service to others and funding more of your creativity.

Apple MacBook Pro 15.4″ Laptop:The Review: You may choose to get an iMac for the bigger screen, and I couldn’t disagree with the beauty of working with the 24” screen. I picked the laptop, because of the need to be mobile and the flexibility of multi-purposing it to use for client demos. As an alternative to the weight of this model, I would suggest the MacBook Air 13”. Most of us have become accustomed to mobile device size screens and it is much easier to carry around.

Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T6 DSLR: The Review: My first DSLR camera was the EOS Rebel T3. This one is vastly superior to the old model. Canon has a well deserved reputation of having top rated cameras. It requires a little play time to master it, and that time will be lessened by defining a clear idea of what you want to do with it, then jumping on YouTube for the multitude of How To videos. If you want a smaller camera to carry around, try Canon EOS M10 Mirrorless Digital Camera OR go small & powerful with the Canon PowerShot Digital Camera with 3-Inch LCD & built in wifi.

Canon PIXMA MX492 Inkjet Printer:The Review: For me this has been the easiest to us for cleaning and cartridge replacement. It works reasonably well with recycled inks and the wireless is easy to set-up. The Canon has worked best for me on ink usage. When purchasing printers, always consider the cost of ink replacement… for the most part, this is the big difference right now in printers. For big reproduction lines it is better to outsource. For scanning, they are as good as the camera in them… this is one reason I’m a fan of Canon products. It does do a nice job on printing photos on good photo paper, and the black print is crisp and clean, provided you do regular cleanings and keep it dust free.

2 thoughts on “500 Works of Art on the Road to Your Creativity #64: Breton’s Japanese Phase

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