quotes about creativity


What is creativity? What does it mean to be original and creative?
What fosters creativity, and what hinders it? Can it be cultivated?
What is the relationship between creativity and consciousness?
Between the creative state and the sacred?

These questions have fueled my inquiry into the creative state; the quotes included here are those I’ve found thought-provoking along the way.

‘Zum Erstaunen bin ich da’ – I am here to wonder.
– Goethe

This oceanic feeling of wonder is the common source of religious mysticism,
of pure science and art for art’s sake.
– Arthur Koestler

God created the giraffe, the cat, the elephant …
He has no real style, he just keeps trying things.
– Pablo Picasso

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.
– Scott Adams

When nothing is sure, everything is possible.
– Margaret Drabble

What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.
– Werner Heisenberg

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
– Albert Einstein

My hand is the extension of the thinking process – the creative process.
– Tadao Ando

I would like to paint the way a bird sings.
– Claude Monet

Resist the familiar!
– Miriam Louisa Simons

High is our calling friend!
Creative Art demands the service of a mind and heart.
– William Wordsworth

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.
– John Lennon

The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.
– Orson Welles

Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.
– Pablo Picasso

Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and the student
are located in the same individual.
– Arthur Koestler

Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.
– Rumi

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
– Thomas Merton

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes
but in having new eyes.
– Marcel Proust

Creativity is more than just being different.
Anybody can play weird – that’s easy.
What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach.
Making the simple complicated is commonplace – making the complicated simple, awesomely simple – that’s creativity.
– Charles Mingus

Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is not art.
– Leonardo da Vinci

Each time we creatively discover some element of the vision that unites us all we co-create our worldview.
That is the meaning of our creativity and its awesome responsibility.
– Danah Zohar, in The Quantum Self

Art is not about thinking something up.
It is the opposite: getting something down.
– Julia Cameron

When I start thinking, everything’s lost.
– Paul Cezanne

It would be a mistake to ascribe this creative power to an inborn talent. In art, the genuine creator is not just a gifted being, but a person who has succeeded in arranging for their appointed end, a complex of activities, of which the work is the outcome. The artist begins with a vision – a creative operation requiring an effort. Creativity takes courage.
– Henri Matisse

The eye of desire dirties and distorts.
Only when we desire nothing, only when our gaze becomes pure contemplation,
does the soul of things (which is beauty) open itself to us.
– Hermann Hesse

All artists are of necessity in some measure contemplative.
– Evelyn Underhill

The noun of self becomes a verb. This flashpoint of creation in the present moment is where work and play merge.
– Stephen Nachmanovitch, in Free Play

Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea,
never regains its original dimensions.
– Oliver Wendell Holmes

The purpose of all true art and science
is to reveal the Creator’s design.
– Albert Einstein

One eye sees, the other feels.
– Paul Klee

Books choose their authors; the act of creation is not entirely a rational and conscious one.
– Salman Rushdie

The painting has a life of its own, I try to let it come through.
– Jackson Pollock

In the brush doing what it’s doing, it will stumble on what one couldn’t do by oneself.
– Robert Motherwell

Creativity is a celebration of life – my celebration of life.
It is a bold statement: I am here! I love life! I love me! I can be anything! I can do anything!
– Joseph Zinker

Inspiration may be a form of superconsciousness, or perhaps of subconsciousness – I wouldn’t know.
But I am sure it is the antithesis of self-consciousness.
– Aaron Copeland

The truth of the thing
is not the think of it
but the feel of it.
– Stanley Kubrick

Beauty plus pity;
that is the closest we can get to a definition of art.
– Vladimir Nabokov

Creativeness is not merely a matter of painting pictures or writing poems, which is good to do, but is very little in itself.
What is important is to be wholly discontented, for such total discontent is the beginning of the initiative which becomes creative as it matures; and that is the only way to find out what is truth, what is God,
because the creative state is God.
… One must be wholly discontented, not complainingly, but with joy, with gaiety, with love.
– J Krishnamurti, in This Matter of Culture

Whatever I know how to do, I’ve already done.
Therefore I do what I do not know how to do.
– Eduardo Chillida

The map is not the territory.
– Alfred Korzbyski

At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.
– Jean Houston

… I had discovered in painting a bit of experience that made all other usual occupations unimportant by comparison.
It was the discovery that when painting something from nature there occurred, at least sometimes, a fusion into a never-before-known wholeness; not only were the object and oneself no longer felt to be separate, but neither were thought and sensation and feeling and action.
All one’s visual perceptions of colour, shape, texture, weight, as well as thought and memory, ideas about the object and action towards it, the movement of one’s hand together with the feeling of delight in the ‘thusness’ of the thing, they all seemed fused into a wholeness of being which was different from anything else that had ever happened to me.
And when the bit of painting was finished, there was before one’s eyes a permanent record of the experience,
giving a constant sense of immense surprise at how it had ever happened:
it did not seem something that oneself had done at all,
certainly not the ordinary everyday self and way of being.
– Marion Milner, in On Not Being Able to Paint

The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.
– C. G. Jung

First thought is best in art.
– William Blake

Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
– Georgia O’Keefe

There is no must in art because art is free.
– Wassily Kandinsky

Never was the craftsman’s delight
in the making of an object,
or the assembly of its components,
more in evidence.
Everywhere in this handsome exhibition,
we see the plain unadorned truth
of the artist’s life – any artist’s life.
The love, the labor, the solitude
and the ritual precision of an idea patiently worked
to its eloquent conclusion.
– Patricia Anderson on Howard Taylor @ MCA Sydney.
Weekend Australian Oct 4-5 2003

The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.
– Oscar Wilde

I shut my eyes in order to see.
– Paul Gauguin

Chance is always powerful. Let your hook always be cast;
in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.
– Ovid

Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.
– Agnes de Mille

Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear most.
– Fyodor Dostoyevski

Satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life.
– Linus Pauling

Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.
– Henri Magritte

You are lost the instant you know what the result will be.
– Juan Gris

One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.
– Andre Gide

The word ‘art’ is muddied.
What you need is a word for ‘order,’ ‘health,’ ‘beauty,’ ‘balance,’
and ‘quality of relationship.’
… Drawing is the time-bound activity of seeing. It stills the brain’s noise and gives us a window to a process as independent as the autonomic nervous system. It seems peculiar that the process should be so elusive.
Art is a specialist’s activity in this culture, and is just a symptom of the process of seeing. That natural process is orderly, constant, available, dispassionate.
– Don Dame

Every creative act involves … a new innocence of perception, liberated from the cataract of accepted belief.
– Arthur Koestler

A. F. Osborne states that creativity is activated by such “stabs” as “What if? What about….? What else? and again, What else….?”
He proposed a ‘checklist’ of original thinking:
Are there other uses? Modifications? Change in color, motion, smell, form, shape?
What could be magnified? Made stronger? Multiplied? Made smaller, lower, shorter, stronger, larger, in miniature, in duplicate, split-up, exaggerated?
A different arrangement, layout, sequence, pace, ingredient, material, power, place, approach, tone of voice?
What could be reversed, transposed, combined, streamlined?
What are the bottlenecks, intersections, surprises, goals, inefficiencies, vital needs?
Drawing turns the creative mind to expose its workings. Drawing discloses the heart of visual thought, coalesces spirit and perception, conjures imagination; drawing is an act of meditation.
– Edward Hill

Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know. … Hence, to think creatively we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.
– George Kneller

The more you reason,
the less you create.
– Raymond Chandler

The purpose of ‘looking’ is to survive, to cope, to manipulate … this we are trained to do from our first day. When, on the other hand, I see, suddenly I am all eyes, I forget this me, am liberated from it and dive into the reality that confronts me.
– Frederick Franck

It seems, then, to be one of the paradoxes of creativity that in order to think originally, we must familiarize ourselves with the ideas of others.
– George Kneller

I live on the edge of time.
My knowing never precedes my need to know by one superfluous second.
My life’s steps are a quick flash of insight following eons of dark sightless waiting.
– Miriam Louisa Simons

Sometimes it is actually easier to draw the spaces and let the objects take care of themselves.
– Arthur L. Guptill

There is more to seeing than meets the eyeball.
– N. R. Hanson

We now appreciate that most brain hypotheses are largely at variance with the realities of physics.
Perceptions are, in any case, only approximations;
there is always some error, which usually goes unnoticed.
– R. L. Gregory

In order to paint [this] as it is, I have to forget all I have seen, and even these things as they have been painted by others.
– Jean-Simeon Chardin

It begins to appear that we have, in Keith Gunderson’s phrase, “under-privileged access” to the goings-on in our own minds.
We make mistakes even about what we are thinking.
– Daniel Dennet in dialogue with Jonathon Miller

At some stage in the process of creation the creative product – whether painting, poem, or scientific theory – takes on a life of its own and transmits its own needs to its creator. It stands apart from him and summons material from his subconscious. The creator, then, must know when to cease directing his work and when to allow it to direct him. He must know, in short, when his work is likely to be wiser than he.
– George Kneller

Clarity, insight or understanding are only possible when thought is in abeyance, when the mind is still. Then only can you see very clearly, then you can say you have really understood … then you have direct perception, because your mind is no longer confused.
To be clear, the mind must be completely quiet, completely still, then there is real understanding and therefore that understanding is action. It isn’t the other way around.
– J Krishnamurti, in You are the World

Einstein’s son, speaking about his father:
“… he had a character more like that of an artist than of a scientist as we usually think of them. For instance, the highest praise for a good theory or a good piece of work was not that it was correct nor that it was exact but that it was beautiful.”
– Hans Albert Einstein

The movement/dynamic/process from incoherence to coherence, is creativity. Neither incoherence nor coherence are static entities, but are constantly fluxing and needing new movements, adjustments, solutions. Problems are never solved once-and-for-all, yet we seek the ultimate panacea, the resolution for all time. This notion is in total contradiction to the nature of the universe, and is another example of incoherence.
– David Bohm, notes from a staff dialogue at Brockwood Park School

Evolution is an effect, not a cause.
– Miriam Louisa Simons

The point is: education is not about curriculum, for almost any curriculum will do, given sufficient numbers of competent teachers.
Education has to do with teaching students to think carefully, critically, reflectively, and creatively about everything and anything that comes their way – in and out of school. Subject-matter, be it language, mathematics, biology, whatever, is a vehicle to this end. (It is worth noticing that the world is not divided into disciplines as schools and universities are.) Education is not something that happens in schools, at any level, then finishes.
As Dewey said, it is not merely preparation for life. It is part of life itself.
– Eric Braithwaite, in the NZ Listener, Dec 2, 1991

Courage = conviction + doubt.
Imagination is the reaching out of the mind, the capacity to see dreams and visions, to consider diverse possibilities, to endure the tension in holding these possibilities to attention.
As imagination gives vitality to form, form keeps imagination from driving us into psychosis. This is the ultimate necessity of limits.
There is a curiously sharp sense of joy or mild ecstasy that comes when you find the particular form required for your creation: … the experience of “This is the way things are meant to be.” We participate for a moment in the myth of creation, and at the same time know more vividly our own limitations.
What if imagination and art are the fountainhead of human experience?
Imagination – seems to be a principle in human life underlying even reason, for the rational functions, according to our definitions, can lead to understanding, can participate in the constituting of reality only as they are creative.
– Rollo May, in The Courage to Create

It is necessary to act and create in freedom, to break with formulas and enlarge the concept of art to encompass everyday existence, designing non-hostile spaces according to the integrational model Art-Nature, Nature-Art.
– Cesar Manrique

… to render beauty accessible to all, by putting order into things and thought.
– Raoul Dufy

He to whom Nature begins to reveal her open secret will feel an irresistible yearning for her most worthy interpreter, ART.
– Goethe

A work of man is only the long journeying to find again through the labyrinth of art the two or three great images upon which, the heart first opened.
– Albert Camus

In penetrating into a wave of perception as energy, extraordinary things go on. There is a sense of soaring ecstasy; a feeling of limitless space; a vast movement of color. Color is god. Not the gods we worship, but the color of the earth, the sky, the extraordinary color of a flower … color is aroma.
Attention is complete harmony .
Attention is a movement to eternity .
The mind is full of thought because the senses are not fully flowering. The senses create thought, senses create experience, which is knowledge, memory – thought.
When the senses are fully flowering, what happens?
There is no center as desire.
You are not ‘aware’ of the senses – you are the senses.
Be absolutely alert and make no effort.
– A selection from J Krishnamurti

I am not a creator. I’m a swimmer and a dismisser of irrelevancies.
– R. Buckminster Fuller

The only real experiences in life [are] those lived with a virgin sensibility – so that we only hear a tone once, only see a color once, see, hear, touch, taste and smell everything but once, the first time. All life is but an echo of our first sensations, and we build up our consciousness, our whole mental life by variations and combinations of these elementary sensations.
– Herbert Read, in The Innocent Eye

Order itself creates harmony out of chaos.
Color is part of order, it has its own logic and something beyond our thinking responds to it, knows how to orchestrate it.
– Miriam Louisa Simons

By health I mean the power to live a full, adult, living, breathing life in close contact with what I see. I want to lose all that is superficial and acquired in me and to become a conscious, direct human being.
I want, by understanding myself, to understand others.
I want to be all that I am capable of becoming. So that I may be a child in the sun – warm, eager, living life. To be rooted in life, to learn, to desire, to know, to feel, to think, to act.
– Katherine Mansfield

The reach of your compassion is the reach of your art.
When you distinguish between good and evil, you’ve lost the art.
An art object, by definition, is divinely superfluous beauty.
– Joseph Campbell

My religion is wonder: wonder at it all and my place in it.
– Miriam Louisa Simons

Man is not a circle with a single center; he is an ellipse with two foci.
Facts are one, ideas are the other.
– Victor Hugo

You have to remain a child your whole life long.
Color is a means of expressing light, though not so much the light as a physical phenomenon as the Light that exists in reality – in the artist’s head.
– Henri Matisse

An artist must be free, or he is not an artist.
– Paul Gauguin

Color is the medium of the painter. It links the outer moods of nature with the inner moods of the soul. It is upon the bridge of color that the artist finds an alternate field of action between the mere copying of the outer world and the often over-indulgent expression of the self. Color is not one-sided but both objective and subjective. It is the master and teacher of the artist in our time.
Color, in fact perceptibly precedes form and can determine form out of its own inner movement. This qualitative inner gesture of color instructs and trains the artist in the formation and build-up of his picture, just as the life-forces of the plant create and mold its leaves, stem and blossom.
– Van James

The practice of art is not directed towards producing artists who can paint or sculpt with real ability, nor towards producing more works to fill our homes and galleries. It is directed towards producing human beings with a sense of wonder at life and that precious ability to inquire into its outward manifestations.
Klee and Miro … urge us to paint like little children. Perhaps they mean we should try to … rediscover that lost attitude to art in which the actual creative act, the experiment, the solving of problems, are more important than the result or solution.
By virtue of being human we are all artists.
… our whole vision, our interpretation of reality, is a complex structure built on the understanding of artists long dead or still living. Every artist who ever lived and worked lives in us. We, or rather our vision and our understanding, are the products of twenty thousand years of art, the temporary crystallization of an ever-changing interpretation of the nature of reality.
By participating in this ever-changing way of seeing, we are learning about ourselves and about the external world. By learning how to see and how to live we are being artists. We have to be artists to survive.
– Fred Gettings, in You are an Artist: a practical approach to art.

The lines and forms are visible signs of divine gestures.
Learn to understand them and you will comprehend how God created the world.
– Brunelleschi

‘Tis by the light of exploding assumptions I see my way.
– Miriam Louisa Simons

Ten thousand images assemble
One thousand needles gather
Ten fingers toil
One heart is lifted.
– From an inscription on the Silk Road Tapestries, British Museum, London

… an abstract art of pure form and color, if it is serious and not merely decorative, mocks the pretensions of secular power because it transcends the limits of this world and attempts to penetrate a hidden world of universal law.
– Bruce Chatwin, in What am I Doing Here?

I should like to write as I paint my pictures – that is to say,
following my fancy, following the moon, and finding the title long afterwards.
– Paul Gauguin, in The Intimate Journals of Gauguin

… broadly, what the painter … conceptualize[s] in non-verbal symbols is the astounding experience of how it feels to be alive, the experience known from inside, of being a moving, living body in space, with capacities to relate oneself to other objects in space. And included in this experience of being alive is the very experiencing of the creative process itself.
– Marion Milner, in On Not Being Able to Paint

… the Islamic artist was not only versed in mathematics in the geometrical sense, … mathematics was integral to his art as it was a ‘universal’ structure supporting the intuitive insights that characterize all true art.
– Keith Critchlow, in Islamic Art

You can never think a painting, you can only do it.
It really doesn’t come from the head.
I would hate to make a painting already formed in my head, and in a sense, just reproduce that image on canvas.
The work is a discovery of something that finally feels authentic.
And there must be absolutely no ‘fiddling’
because then you begin to construct the painting in a known way.
I want to construct a painting in an unknown way, unknown to me.
I don’t want to design a painting.
– Edwina Leapman

When our eyes see our hands doing the work of our hearts, a circle of creation is completed inside us. The doors of our souls fly open – and love steps forth to heal everything in sight.
– Vyvyan Mari

Today, like other days, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
– Rumi

I can do very well without God, both in my life and my painting, but I cannot, ill as I am, do without something which is greater than I, which is my life – the power to create.
– Vincent Van Gogh

The inexpressible is the only thing worth expressing.
– Frederick Franck

Why do we do art?
There may be multiple and serious motivations, such as opening people’s eyes to injustice or saving the world; but if the activity to save the world doesn’t give us joy, what’s the point of having a world and how will we have the wholeness and energy to carry on? This whole adventure of creativity is about joy and love.
We live for the pure joy of being and out of that joy unfolds the ten thousand art forms and all the branches of learning and compassionate activity.
– Stephen Nachmanovitch, in Free Play

Paint as you like and die happy.
– Henry Miller

… to those who can appreciate the force and vitality of this … movement in art [‘tachisme’: blot or stain – pure psychic automatism – rejection of all pictorial imagery – unformed thoughts – dynamic – ‘inner necessity being expressed] it will seem but proof of the indestructible nature of that will to form … which has always been the biological justification of the aesthetic activity.
– Herbert Read, in The Meaning of Art

… the wild freedom that is the privilege of the disciplined artist.
– Jeanette Winterson, in Art Objects

Awe is what moves us forward.
– Joseph Campbell

Color defies literal and mathematical definition; it has its own syntax.
The complete significance of any great work of art is contained within itself, and is projected on us before we take note of any subject matter. True aesthetic judgment is never calculated – it is immediate and involuntary.
– Frank Hodgkinson, in Kakadu and the Arnhem Landers

Every stroke of my brush is the overflow of my inmost heart.
– Sengai

I’m really only interested in finding more and more ways of saying what I feel about the extraordinariness of the world
and of being alive in it.
But I do know that to find the language, gestural, verbal or pictorial, one has recurrently to let everything go, all thoughts of what one loves, all images, and attend to the nothingness, seemingly nothing there – silence.
– Marion Milner, in Eternity’s Sunrise

The artist Hokusai, at the end of a long life, joyously exclaimed:
“At last I do not know how to draw!”

In the form and function of play,
man’s consciousness that he is embedded in a sacred order of things
finds its first, highest and holiest expression.
– Johan Huizinga, in Homo Ludens

In your work you first have to forget that you don’t know how to paint.
Then you have to forget that you do know how to paint . . .
– Namgyal Rinpoche, in Unfolding through Art

The mightiest lever known to the moral world … imagination.
The creating mind is … creator and receiver both, working but in alliance with the works which it beholds.
– William Wordsworth

It is in working within limits that the craftsman reveals himself.
– Goethe

The discoveries of science [and] art are explorations – more, are explorations of a hidden likeness.
The discoverer or artist presents in them two aspects of nature and fuses them into one.
This is the act of creation, in which an original thought is born, and it is the same act in original science and original art.
– Bronowski, in Science and Human Values

The whole question of questions and not answers is very interesting.
Suppose no one asked a question. What would the answer be?
– J.W. Getzels

In 1880 the great French mathematician Henri Poincare was struggling to find a proof for a theorem … Day after day he would engage in a few hours of futile calculation then give up. Then one evening, the answer came. “Contrary to my custom, I drank black coffee and could not sleep,” he recalled. “Ideas rose in crowds. I felt them collide until pairs interlocked, so to speak, making stable combinations.” By the next morning, he could see his way to the proof – all he had to do was write down the results.
– Robert Matthews, in New Scientist, Dec 1994

We can never neatly separate what we see from what we know. A person who was born blind and who gains his eyesight later on, must learn to see.
The artist who wants to “represent” a real (or imagined) thing does not start by opening his eyes and looking about him but by taking colors and forms and building up the required image.
When Picasso says, “I do not seek, I find,” he means … that he has come to take as a matter of course that creation itself is exploration. He does not plan, he watches the weirdest beings rise under his hands. The films which show him at work, and his more playful creations, … show that here is a man who has succumbed to the spell of making, unrestrained and unrestrainable by the mere descriptive functions of the image.
The Greeks said that to marvel is the beginning of knowledge and where we cease to marvel we may be in danger of ceasing to know.
I know of no better description to teach us the art of wonder again … to restore a sense of wonder at man’s capacity to conjure up forms, lines, shades or colors – those mysterious phantoms of visual reality we call ‘pictures.’
– E H Gombrich, in Art and Illusion

For me, creation first starts by contemplation, and I need long, idle hours of meditation. It is then that I work most. I look at flies, at flowers, at leaves and trees around me. I let my mind drift at ease, just like a boat in the current. Sooner or later, it is caught by something. It gets precise. It takes shape … my next painting motif is decided.
– Pablo Picasso

For someone who is conscious only of the material world, power is limited to material resources; but at a more profound level there is a creative power shaping mind and body – the power of evolution, or dharma.
To get in touch with the core of life, you have to get in touch with the creative power of the universe.
That power expresses itself through your personal creativity.
When you are in the field of creativity, you lose track of time. Only the flow exists.
As long as creation dominates your existence, you will keep growing and evolving.
Evolution thwarts entropy, decay and aging.
– Deepak Chopra

I shall become a master in this art only after a great deal of practice, until eventually the results of my theoretical knowledge and the results of my practice are blended into one – my intuition, the essence of the mastery of any art. But aside from learning the theory and practice, there is a third factor necessary to becoming a master in any art – the mastery of the art must be a matter of ultimate concern; there must be nothing else in the world more important than the art. This holds true for music, for medicine, for carpentry – and for love.
– Erich Fromm

To break away from that which is may be a step in the direction of what may be
– and it is precisely here that the creative act begins.
– Jean Dubuffet

The energies of the artwork cross-current into us.
It is a transfusion of a kind, and if this has religious overtones, it doesn’t matter.
Nobody need be nervous about a connection between art and religion.
All of life is connected and our deepest experiences, whether of faith or love or art will share similar qualities.
– Jeanette Winterson

Whereas most of us can name – and therefore distinguish – perhaps twelve or fifteen different colors, there are professional dyers and painters who have a color vocabulary of several thousand shades. This range of vision causes them to see a colored universe which is as different from the average man’s as a fifteen-word language is different in its scope and dimension from one of two thousand words. With depth of vision come the dimensions of quality and mood.
– Laurence Blair, in Rhythms of Vision

There is painting but no one painting.
When I paint I am color.
– Namgyal Rinpoche

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.– William Blake

To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life!
Welcome, o life!
I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience
and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.
– James Joyce, in Portrait of the Artist

Once we discount the seductive red herring of inexplicable genius and recognize the immensely creative nature of normal, everyday thinking, we begin to appreciate not a rare handful of ‘gifted’ individuals but each and every person around us. We become aware that the precious quality of creativity is in truth common currency; that aspects of character, personality and above all motivation are what convert a base metal to pure gold.
To be creative ultimately is to be nothing more than human.
To be human is of necessity to be creative.
– Peter Evans and Geoff Deehan, in The Keys to Creativity

John Dewey and Alfred North Whitehead, along with Henri Bergson would enlighten by their adeptness at finding new ways of seeking. For Bergson, who found his meaning in the seeking, evolution had become God’s “undertaking to create creators.”
– Daniel J. Boorstin in TIME special issue on Discovery, summer ’97, ’98

Every one of us is able to reproduce the phenomena of creation from inside out. It is not simply a question of the subject matter, the iconography of genesis appropriate to each culture: it is a question of processes which are the basis of representation, which are primary (even in the Freudian sense of unconscious and unfiltered material). Artistic ability is connected not only with ‘technical skill’ but with the capacity to appreciate chaos, to ‘make something out of it.’ Often it is those who have no art education who can best let go imaginatively. Children, before they learn better, show the roots of this visionary play: leaving the initial traces unrefined, letting them be many things at once – a head, an egg, a boat, or a house. Later on, it takes an effort or a crisis for these moments of metaphoric osmosis to be recovered.
As Marion Milner writes: “Moments when the original poet in each of us created the outside world for us, by finding the familiar in the unfamiliar, are perhaps forgotten by most people; or else they are guarded in some secret place of memory because they were too much like visitations of the gods to be mixed with everyday thinking.
– David Maclagan, in Creation Myths

To glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod confounds the learning of all times.
– Walt Whitman, in Leaves of Grass

Color doesn’t depict, it evokes.
– Miriam Louisa Simons

We forget that the world is always more and stranger than we guess. Or can guess. Instead, we search for simple answers, simple laws of nature, in a sleight of mind that makes us uniquely human. Just as we’re addicted to rules, home-truths and slogans, we’re addicted to certain ways of explaining things. There’s bound to be a simple answer to everything, we insist. Maybe not. Maybe complexity frightens us. Maybe we fear becoming as plural as all we survey.
The word ‘discovery’ literally means: uncovering something that’s hidden from view. But what really happens is a change in the viewer. The familiar offers a comfort few can resist, and fewer still want to disturb.
Some of the richest moments in people’s lives have come from playing with a mental box full of numbers or ideas, rotating it, shaking it, while the hours slip by, until at last the box begins to rattle and a revelation spills out.
– From Diane Ackerman: Discoveries on your Doorstep, in TIME Discovery issue ’97-’98

Painters should only meditate brush in hand.
– Balzac

Can I make a painting about human experience without having to depict appearances?
Can I paint the human spirit rather than noses and feet?
Can I reveal the splendours and agonies of life through space, colour, light,
shape, line, confrontation, rhythm and inflections in the paint?
– Albert Irvin

Creativity is always founded on the sensitive perception of what is new and different from what is inferred from previous knowledge.
When a learning state of mind operates, there’s undivided and total interest in what one is doing.
What is characteristic about the results of creative action?
One perceives a new fundamental set of similar differences, that constitutes a genuinely new order and structure in the world that is seen.
… just as the health of the body demands that we breathe properly, so,
whether we like it or not,
the health of the mind requires that we be creative.
… in the long run, no really subtle, deep and far-reaching problems can be solved in any field whatsoever, except by people who are able to respond in an original and creative way, to the ever changing and developing fact by which they are confronted.
– David Bohm, in On Creativity

Contemporary creativity consists in activating, expressing, and fulfilling the universe process, the earth process, the life process, and the human process within the possibilities of our historical moment.
– Thomas Berry

Creativity requires the ability to think through problems afresh, to discover common threads amongst seemingly disparate influences, to be willing to experiment, to rewrite rules, to visualize and to have the courage to act upon those visions.
– Stevie McKinless

The greatest formal talent is worthless
if it does not serve a creativity which is capable of shaping a cosmos.
The greatness of an artist lies in the building of an inner world,
and in the ability to reconcile this inner world with the outer.
– Albert Einstein

Whatever I want to express in its truest meaning must emerge from within me and pass through an inner form.
It cannot come from outside to the inside but must emerge from within.
– Meister Eckhart

If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.
– Rollo May

… but why the men who believe in electrons should regard themselves as less credulous than the men who believed in angels is not apparent to me.
– George Bernard Shaw

Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.
– Claude Monet

Color has taken hold of me; no longer do I have to chase after it. I know that it has hold of me for ever.
That is the significance of this blessed moment.
Color and I are one. I am a painter.
– Paul Klee, on his return from Tunis, 1914

The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.
– John Ruskin

The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.
– Paul Cezanne

If we study Japanese art, we see a man who is undoubtedly wise, philosophic and intelligent, who spends his time doing what? In studying the distance between the earth and the moon? No. In studying Bismarck’s policy?
No. He studies a single blade of grass.
– Vincent Van Gogh

The faculty of creating is never given to us all by itself. It always goes hand in hand with the gift of observation. And the true creator may be recognized by his ability to find about him, in the commonest and humblest thing, items worthy of note.
– Igor Stravinsky

Art happens. No hovel is safe from it, no prince may depend upon it, the vastest intelligence cannot bring it about.
– James McNeill Whistler

You come to nature with all your theories, and she knocks them all flat.
– Pierre Auguste Renoir

In art, every generation
must start again afresh.
– Maurice de Vlamink

People don’t realize what they have when they own a picture by me.
Each picture is a phial with my blood. That is what has gone into it.
– Pablo Picasso

When I begin painting I am in a state of unconsciousness;
I suddenly forget that I am holding a brush in my hand.
– Wu Chen (1280 – 1354)

The true work of art continues to unfold and create within the personality of the spectator.
It is a continuous coming into being.
– Martin Levy

I think the experiential test of whether this art is great or good, or minor or abysmal is the effect it has on your own sense of the world and yourself.
Great art changes you.
– Sister Wendy Beckett

It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance …
and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.
– Henry James

Abstract Art has come into being as a necessary expression of the feelings and thoughts of our age; it has added new dimensions to creative painting; it is part of the constant change and vital searching that energizes every true art.
– Leonard Brooks

Art’s a staple. Like bread or wine or a warm coat in winter. Those who think it is a luxury have only a fragment of a mind. Man’s spirit grows hungry for art in the same way his stomach growls for food.
– Irving Stone

Art is a staple of mankind … So urgent, so utterly linked with the pulse of feeling that it becomes the singular sign of life when every other aspect of civilization fails.
– Jamake Highwater

I believe in Michelangelo, Velazquez, and Rembrandt; in the might of design, the mystery of color,
the redemption of all things by Beauty everlasting,
and the message of Art that has made these hands blessed: Amen. Amen.
– George Bernard Shaw

I hope with all my heart that there will be painting in heaven.
– Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot – his dying words.

…one of the remarkable things about the important thresholds in the biography of life was that they were explorations, innovations. The ‘enemy’ was the challenge of a new physiology, no cryptic Minotaur. … The implication is: no change without challenge. This may be the stuff of regular evolutionary change, … but when thresholds were crossed life gloriously broke free of combat, at least for a while, and lost itself in creative innovation…
…the final threshold is consciousness, freeing the mind from the confines of mere cells, allowing imagination to probe situations not yet encountered: a sense of self – and reason – are those properties we like to consider uniquely human.
… although Nature is full of camouflage, we are the first animal ever to deceive ourselves.
Cro-Magnon man…Man the Artist. In the dark corners of caves Cro-Magnons drew exquisite icons of the animals they held sacred, or those that they hunted. These outline drawings, in ochre, in charcoal, or in natural pigment portray mammoths, antelopes, bison, oxen, horses. Man himself appears as an emblem, rather than a portrait, a spindly figure, a dark, attenuated sprite, less characterized than the animals around him. In some caves, handprints, also in ochre, have been added later, as if to assert individual identity. The drawings combine economy of means with precision of characteristics in a way that leaves no doubt that there was joy or reverence in the skill of their rendition. The spirits would not be placated by a botched job. These are not the jagged approximations of early childhood sketches. They are deft. If they recall anything later in art history it is the masterly likenesses that Picasso could achieve with a few pencil lines.
– Richard Fortey, in Life


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