As a freelance children’s book illustrator, my schedule fluctuates. Multiple projects have kept me busy in recent days and my work calendar for the coming weeks and months is packed. Which is great! And stressful!
My daily yoga practice is so effective for managing anxiety that I can’t abandon it, especially in busy times, but there are only so many hours in the day. When time on the mat is limited, I focus on poses that produce the most peace. For me this usually involves some physical challenge, which keeps my mind on the pose rather than the to-do list. Presently my favorite go-to pose it pigeon.
A note about me and pigeons, the birds: I love them! Pigeons are city-dwellers, and I am a city girl. Whenever I see a pigeon I feel happy. (I know, I know… some consider them “rats of the sky.” Not me.) Because of my affinity for pigeons, I sneak them into my illustrations whenever I can.
While doing research for a new book, I read an interesting story linking pigeons to the cause of peace. In light of recent world events (namely the terror attack in Barcelona), I thought I’d share it. Perhaps it will help add a layer of significance to your practice of pigeon pose.
Matisse’s Pigeons and Picasso’s Dove of Peace
At some point in your life, you’ve probably seen this simple drawing of a dove, or one like it. The “Dove of Peace” was created by Pablo Picasso, and is probably his best known image. Here is the story behind it.
Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso were rivals in the world of art, but they are also friends who shared a love of animals. Both kept pigeons and doves—the names of which, at the time, were interchangeable. Toward the end of his life when Matisse was ill, he entrusted Picasso to look after his fancy pet pigeons.
Picasso created a lithograph (a form of printing that enabled an artist to mass-produce an image) of one of those fancy pigeons. The lithograph, “La Colombe” (The Dove)—was used on a poster commemorating the Peace Conference in Paris in 1949. The poster was plastered everywhere, making Picasso’s dove famous, and linking his art with the cause of peace.
Picasso continued drawing doves, stylizing and simplifying the form of the bird as he went, ultimately creating the clean, graphic peace dove images for which he is famous.
I originally had the pleasure of illustrating Picasso and his doves, including the image shown here, for Mauricio Velázquez de León’s 2014 picture book 100 Pablo Picassos—a lovely and creative biography of Picasso for kids.
The story that links Matisse to Picasso’s doves is featured in a different book: the soon-to-be-released Artists and Their Pets, written by Susie Hodge and illustrated by Yours Truly, Violet Lemay. If you care to read more about either of these books, click here.
Picasso loved the city of Barcelona and would have been horrified to hear of the recent attack there. Here’s to his dove of peace—which was really a pigeon—and to peace through yoga.