Creativity Quotes

On this page are some quotes from books and blogs that I have found inspiring and useful. These are all related to the practical and emotional side of painting or creativity in general. I hope you find something of value here.

I plan to push in some new quotes as I come across them, and as I can find time. I will push new ones into the top, so please check back from time to time to see if there is something new you find inspirational.

#10: Being continually enraptured by techniques and materials is one thing, but it is merely the conduit. There has to be some pressure, something of meaning, at the source, that needs to come out onto the canvas:

For an artist to be interesting to us he must have been interesting to himself. He must have been capable of intense feeling, and capable of profound contemplation. He who has contemplated has met with himself, is in a state to see into the realities beyond the surfaces of his subject. Nature reveals to him, and, seeing and feeling intensely, he paints, and whether he wills it or not each brush stroke is an exact record of such as he was at the exact moment the stroke was made.

Henri, Robert. The Art Spirit.

#9: There is no secret to becoming a master painter – more experience equals a better painter. And expect to learn right to the end – whenever that is.

In an interview with master painter Stuart Shills on Painting Perceptions, Shills had this to say:

I tell my young students here that the only difference between us is that I have made more paintings but please don’t think that I really have any idea what I’m doing. Just like them, I’m also on the side of the mountain, hooked up to ropes, hoping the landslide doesn’t come or if it does, to ride it out. Over the last 20 years, the force and challenges of the landscape itself, being in it and having to deal with its complexity – (and i don’t mean landscape as a calendar cliché, I’m thinking more as a formal abstraction and along the lines of massive sensory impact) – has been the greatest influence, my most significant teacher.

#8: Becoming an accomplished artist is hard work. I think there is a clear line between the “art is fun” movement and those who need it like oxygen. 

I found a prime example of the sort of dedication needed to find and push your limits as an artist when I read an interview of the painter Marc Hanson by John Pototschnik. The artist was asked whether he had a recent experience which he felt caused his art to take a step up. His answer:

Without a doubt the month long painting “marathons” that I’ve done, painting every day for the entire month, 4 paintings a day, have done the most for my technique, for my outlook on what I choose to paint, and for my endurance as a painter.  Those intense months of nothing but painting, all day long, have done more than anything else I’ve done to advance my painting skills.  It only makes sense that it would.  You have to paint when you don’t want to, when you’re tired, wet, cold, out of ideas, thinking that there’s No Way that you’re going to be able to see one more painting, ever.  That personal challenge really stretched my chops.  I’ve done four of those now, and I would say that with each one I could viscerally feel the steps forward that my painting took.

Personally, this makes me feel better. I know I have the ability to work hard and relentlessly push myself. My talent or lack thereof I cannot really do anything about!

#7: Working on a painting is a process of finding and solving problems. It is not always plain sailing – and that is normal

The initial idea always changes. Once the paint gets on the canvas I am also responding to the paint as well as what I am painting. I use different kind of brushes, or whatever I can grab. This also can totally change the feeling of the structure. After getting into the painting I start to see different things and problems. The painting feeds you with all these problems, so you have to quickly make decisions, just a few minutes can take you somewhere else.

Briliant Artist Ying Li – from the her interview on Painting Perceptions.

#6: Keep looking and searching, look harder. Don’t always trust what comes easy.

Every painting comes out differently. Sometimes I stay in more representational manner because I feel I really got the character or something right there. Or the painting just works. However most times I don’t trust that feeling, I try to get past that point and dig harder into the painting, to find what it is really about. At a certain point the painting gets muddy and flat and I hit a wall. It bounces back instead of going deeper. Sometimes I find I am just repeating my own paintings. I have to paint through those moments, and look harder, I find the solution is always out there, the looking part leads to the clue.

Briliant Artist Ying Li – from the her interview on Painting Perceptions.

#5: Do not Court the Approval of Others – Seek the approval of your own self

The lesson here is simply that courting approval, even that of peers, puts a dangerous amount of power in the hands of the audience. Worse yet, the audience is seldom in a position to grant (or withhold) approval on the one issue that really counts — namely, whether or not you’re making progress in your work.

Bayles, David; Orland, Ted. Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (p. 48). Image Continuum Press. Kindle Edition.

#4: Unexpected Advice: Go for Quantity and the Quality will Come

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work-and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection,

Bayles, David; Orland, Ted. Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (p. 29). Image Continuum Press. Kindle Edition.

#3: Accept that Your Taste and Style will Change

I have noticed how my taste for art has changed over years, sometimes starting off on one style, moving away and then coming back again. Sometimes this made me think I was wishy-washy, not sure enough of myself, not original enough. Robert Henri has some advice on this:

IT IS NOT EASY to know what you like. Most people fool themselves their entire lives through about this. Self-acquaintance is a rare condition. (p. 164) Kindle Edition.

Henri, Robert. The Art Spirit.

#2: Having a Vision is as Important as Technique.

I have been trying to make this matter clear— this matter that the whole fun of the thing is in seeing and inventing, trying to refute a common idea that education is a case of collecting and storing, instead of making. It’s not easy. But the matter is mighty well worth considering. (P 88) Kindle Edition.

All outward success, when it has value, is but the inevitable result of an inward success of full living, full play and enjoyment of one’s faculties. (P 92) Kindle Edition.

The picture, if a picture results, is a by-product and may be useful, valuable, interesting as a sign of what has past. The object, which is back of every true work of art, is the attainment of a state of being, a state of high functioning, a more than ordinary moment of existence.  (P. 157) Kindle Edition.

Henri, Robert. The Art Spirit

#1: A Little Career Advice from Barbara Jeanicke

In this post, this great artist gives pointers for young artists. Not that I am young, but I found item 4 out of her “10 things I would recommend to young artists” particularly inspiring and instructive:

PAINT LIKE CRAZY! Don’t even try to do anything professionally with your work until you have several hundred paintings behind you! (If you take any piece of advice from this list,make it this one!) For your first hundred or so paintings, don’t worry if anything is “archival.” Just paint. Make it as affordable as you can to paint A LOT. You’ll just get frustrated, and waste a lot of time and money, if you try to show your work to galleries, get juried into competitive shows, or sell anything on your own before you’re ready. Painting is a learnable skill, so if it’s not going well, you just need more time to learn and develop. Other than occasional classes/workshops and participating in any other learning opportunities, get as much mileage as you can at your own easel. I teach adults of all ages, and many of them ask me for advice on getting into galleries. There are the typical dos and don’ts of approaching galleries, but really the best way to get gallery representation is to get your work to such a level that the galleries find YOU!