Get inspired: Quotations on Art, Creativity, Life and Livelihood

  1. Art is magical, but it’s not magic. It’s a neurological product, and we can study this neurological product the same way we study other complex processes such as language. — Charles Limb, neuroscientist
  2. Creativity is allowing oneself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
    — Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle
  3. The goal of life is rapture. Art is the way we experience it. Art is the transforming experience.
    — Joseph Campbell
  4. Beginning with audacity is a very great part of the art of painting.
    — Winston Churchill
  5. …Only art penetrates what pride, passion, intelligence and habit erect on all sides – the seeming realities of this world. There is another reality, the genuine one, which we lose sight of. This other reality is always sending us hints, which without art, we can’t receive. Proust calls these hints our “true impressions.” The true impressions, our persistent intuitions, will, without art, be hidden from us and we will be left with nothing but a ‘terminology for practical ends’ which we falsely call life.
    — Saul Bellow, on science and art from his Nobel lecture in 1976.
  6. The artist has one function–to affirm and glorify life.
    — W. Edward Brown
  7. Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.
    — Berthold Brecht
  8. The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been concealed by the answers.
    — James Baldwin
  9. Every artist dips his brush in his own soul and paints his own nature into his pictures.
    — Henry Ward Beecher
  10. Art that cannot shape society and therefore also cannot penetrate the heart questions of society, and in the end influence the question of capital, is no art.
    —Joseph Beuys
  11. CAPITAL is at present the work sustaining ability. Money is not an economic value though. The two genuine economic values involve the connection between ability (creativity) and product. That explains the formula presenting the expanded concept of art: ART =CAPITAL.
    —Joseph Beuys
  12. If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
    —William Blake
  13. Art is meant to disturb, science reassures.
    — Georges Braque 1882-1963
  14. Straight-away the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God, and not only do I see distinct themes in my mind’s eye, but they are clothed in the right forms, harmonies, and orchestration.
    —Johannes Brahms
  15. In order to create, we draw from our inner well. This inner well, an artistic reservoir, is ideally like a well-stocked fish pond… If we don’t give some attention to upkeep, our well is apt to become depleted, stagnant, or blocked…As artists, we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them — to restock the trout pond, so to speak.
    —Julia Cameron
  16. When I am finishing a picture, I hold some God-made object up to it – a rock, a flower, the branch of a tree or my hand – as a final test. If the painting stands up beside a thing man cannot make, the painting is authentic. If there’s a clash between the two, it’s bad art.
    —Marc Chagall
  17. Nothing sublimely artistic has ever arisen out of mere art … There must always be a rich moral soil for any artistic growth.
    — G.K. Chesterton
  18. Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely. Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end of the day.
    — Winston Churchill.
  19. Art is science made clear.
    — Jean Cocteau
  20. What would it be like if you lived each day, each breath, as a work of art in progress? Imagine that you are a Masterpiece unfolding every second of every day, a work of art taking form with every breath.
    —Thomas Crum
  21. How we choose what we do, and how we approach it…will determine whether the sum of our days adds up to a formless blur, or to something resembling a work of art.
    —Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  22. Art is not the possession of the few who are recognized writers, painters, musicians; it is the authentic expression of any and all individuality. Those who have the gift of creative expression in unusually large measure disclose the meaning of the individuality of others to those others. In participating in the work of art, they become artists in their activity. They learn to know and honor individuality in whatever form it appears. The fountains of creative activity are discovered and released. The free individuality which is the source of art is also the final source of creative development in time.
    —John Dewey
  23. Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses – especially learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else.
    — Leonardo da Vinci
  24. All our knowledge has its origin in our perceptions.
    — Leonardo da Vinci
  25. Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art.
    — Leonardo da Vinci
  26. The sound of the sea, the curve of a horizon, wind in leaves, the cry of a bird leave a manifold impression in us. And suddenly, without our wishing it at all, one of these memories spills from us and finds expression in musical language… I want to sing my interior landscape with the simple artlessness of a child.
    —Claude Debussy
  27. A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
    —Antoine de St. Exupery
  28. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
    —Antoine de St. Exupery
  29. Beauty will save the world.
  30. I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.
    —Marcel Duchamp (1887 – 1968) French-US artist
  31. In writing songs I’ve learned as much from Cezanne as I have from Woody Guthrie.
    —Bob Dylan
  32. What is possible in art becomes thinkable in life.
    —Brian Eno
  33. Having no silence in music is like having no black or white in a painting.
    —Brian Eno
  34. Great artists are people who find a way to be themselves in their art. Any sort of pretension induces mediocrity in art and life alike.—Dame Margot Fonteyn, prima ballerina
  35. Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.
    —Sigmund Freud
  36. Live as if you were to die tomorrow; Learn as if you were to live forever.
  37. Sometimes reality is too complex. Fiction gives it form.
    —Jean-Luc Godard
  38. The harder you chase something, the faster you go and the less you’re able to let life meet life. If you’re having difficulty coming up with new ideas, then slow down …Creativity exists in the present moment. You can’t find it anywhere else.
    —Natalie Goldberg, author
  39. Many excellent cooks are spoiled by going into the arts.
    —Paul Gauguin
  40. Responsibility is what awaits outside the Eden of Creativity
    —Nadine Gordimer South African novelist, The Essential Gesture, lecture, 12 Oct 1984.
  41. A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.
    —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  42. Intuition is the supra-logic that cuts out all the routine processes of thought and leaps straight from the problem to the answer.
    —Robert Graves (1895 – 1985) English novelist, poet, writer
  43. Artists are like the Phoenix, they periodically have to self-immolate, burn off an aspect of themselves to give birth to something new. The blank canvas demands you exceed yourself. And most times you fail. This pisses you off so bad you want to quit making art or makes some artists want to quit living. But then you calm down and come back to the work.
    —Alex Grey, artist
  44. Transformative art must express something beyond where you are, it demands that you grow beyond your current self. This is where an artist’s angst and the pain of transformation coincide. You reach toward the true, the good and the beautiful and become a better person through the struggle.
    —Alex Grey, artist
  45. The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
    —Hans Hofmann.
  46. I firmly believe that all human beings have access to extraordinary energies and powers. Judging from accounts of mystical experience, heightened creativity, or exceptional performance by athletes and artists, we harbour a greater life than we know.”
    —Jean Houston
  47. The nature of the masterpieces is not to dazzle. Their nature is to persuade, to convince, to enter into us through our pores.
    —Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
  48. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
    – Steve Jobs, Stanford commencement speech 2005
  49. Creativity belongs to the artist in each of us. To create means to relate. The root meaning of the word art is “to fit together” and we all do this every day. Not all of us are painters but we are all artists. Each time we fit things together we are creating – whether it is to make a loaf of bread, a child, a day.
    —Corita Kent
  50. Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.
    —Paul Klee
  51. There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will have truly defeated age.
    — Sophia Loren
  52. I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.
    —Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)
  53. There is no must in art because art is free.
    —Kandinsky 1866 – 1944
  54. [Artists] love to immerse themselves in chaos in order to put it into form, just as God created form out of chaos in Genesis. Forever unsatisfied with the mundane, the apathetic, the conventional, they always push on to newer worlds.
    — Rollo May (The Courage to Create)
  55. [I]f you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also, you will have betrayed your community in failing to make your contribution.
    — Rollo May (The Courage to Create)
  56. I have an idea that the only thing which makes it possible to regard this world we live in without disgust is the beauty which now and then men create out of chaos. The pictures they paint, the music they compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these the richest in beauty is the beautiful life. That is the perfect work of art.
    —W Somerset Maugham (Waddington in The Painted Veil, 1925)
  57. Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks.
    —Yo-Yo Ma
  58. Art at its most significant is a distant early warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen.
    —Marshall McLuhan
  59. The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.
  60. When I am…completely myself, entirely alone…or during the night when I cannot sleep, it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence and how these come I know not nor can I force them…Nor do I hear in my imagination the parts successively, but I hear them gleich alles zusammen [at the same time altogether.
    — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  61. Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together, go to the making of a genius. Love, love, love: that is the soul of genius.
    — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  62. It may be that the deep necessity of art is the examination of self-deception.
    — Robert Motherwell (1915 – 1991) US painter,  on the relationship between torment and creativity; in NY “Times,” 17 Nov 1985.
  63. Art-making has an alchemical effect on the imagination. It awakens the senses and sharpens insights, teaching us to think in symbols, metaphors, and to de-code complexity, so we can perceive the world in new ways.
    — Linda Naiman (
  64. Art provides an opportunity for kaleidoscopic thinking. Each time we shift the lens of our perceptions, we gain new perspectives — and new opportunities for innovation.
    — Linda Naiman (
  65. Often what the artist expresses is unconscious, but we can learn to decode the story by collaboratively finding the pieces to the puzzle that create new possibilities for innovation.
    — Linda Naiman (Vancouver Sun Aug 24/04)
  66. The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.
    —Friedrich Nietzsche
  67. In music the passions enjoy themselves.
    —Friedrich Nietzsche
  68. We have art in order not to die of the truth.
    —Friedrich Nietzsche
  69. To create one’s own world in any of the arts takes courage.
    —Georgia O’Keeffe
  70. Stories are the secret reservoir of values: change the stories individuals or nations live by and tell themselves, and you change the individuals and nations.
    —Ben Okri, Nobel Prize for Literature
  71. Art has two constant, two unending concerns: It always meditates on death and thus always creates life. All great, genuine art resembles and continues the Revelation of St John.
    — Boris Pasternak (1819 – 1861)
  72. Every act of creation is, first of all, an act of destruction.
    —Pablo Picasso
  73. Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.
    —Pablo Picasso
  74. I do not seek. I find. (Je ne cherche pas; je trouve)
    —Pablo Picasso
  75. We all know that Art is not the truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies. If he only shows in his work that he has searched, and researched, for the way to put over lies, he would never accomplish anything.
    —Pablo Picasso. Excerpted from an interview with Marius de Zayas, 1923.
  76. I cannot judge my work while I am doing it. I have to do as painters do, stand back and view it from a distance, but not too great a distance. How great? Guess.
    — Pascal
  77. I wondered whether music might not be a unique example of what might have been – if the invention of language had not intervened — the means of communication between souls.
    —Marcel Proust (Remembrance of Things Past)
  78. The music of this opera [Madama Butterfly] was dictated to me by God; I was merely instrumental in putting it on paper and communicating it to the public.
    — Puccini
  79. Life is short, art is long.
    — John Ringling
  80. Few people think more than two or three times a year. I’ve made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.
    — George Bernard Shaw
  81. The world speaks to me in colours, my soul answers in music.
    — Rabindranath Tagore
  82. All artists, whether they know it or not create from a place of inner stillness, a place of no mind.
    —Eckhart Tolle
  83.  We can actually accelerate the process through meditation, through the ability to find stillness through loving actions, through compassion and sharing, through understanding the nature of the creative process in the universe and having a sense of connection to it. So, that’s conscious evolution.
  84. —Deepak Chopra
  85. There is no genius where there is not simplicity.
    — Tolstoy
  86. One of the keys to embracing creativity is recognizing that even though it involves risk, you don’t die.
    —David Usher, musician, artist
  87. Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.
    —Henry Van Dyke
  88. We, by our arts may be called the grandsons of God. — Leonardo da Vinci
  89. Painting is poetry which is seen and not heard, and poetry is a painting which is heard but not seen. — Leonardo da Vinci
  90. Art is never finished, only abandoned. — Leonardo da Vinci
  91. It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.— Leonardo da Vinci
  92. The primary benefit of practising any art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one’s soul to grow.
    —Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  93. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.
    —Andy Warhol
  94. If there’s ever a problem, I film it and it’s no longer a problem. It’s a film.
    —Andy Warhol
  95. The fine art of painting, which is the bastard of alchemy, always has been always will be, a game. The rules of the game are quite simple: in a given arena, on as many psychic fronts as the talent allows, one must visually describe, the centre of the meaning of existence.
    —Brett Whiteley
  96. The purpose of truly transcendent art is to express something you are not yet, but that you can become.
    —Ken Wilber, The Mission of Art by Alex Grey
  97. All great transcendental art is not merely symbolic or imaginary: it is a direct invitation to recognize and realize a deeper dimension of our very own being.  In the eternal trinity of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, art, while it can be good and true, has always staked out the domain of the Beautiful.
    —Ken Wilber, The Mission of Art by Alex Grey
  98. All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
    —Oscar Wilde
  99. Bad artists always admire each other’s work.
    —Oscar Wilde

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