Ten Useful Quotes For a Beginning Artist

I was thinking today about not only learning to make art but also understanding how to be an artist. By this I mean, learning how to see the world and use it as a resource; understanding your unique working methodology; moving from being a student to being in control of your process while remaining open to the unknown.

So here are 10 quotes for today:


“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” – Steve Jobs (Co-founder Apple)


“… but, no matter how much work you have under your belt, you still have to occupy that place where you don’t know what you’re doing, and all of the issues of trust and insecurity that go with that. Every time I start a new project, I am uncomfortable. I have to find a way to trust and research my intuitions about what something needs to become. Because I have a history of working, I can recognize this long stage and trust that in time the project will reveal itself. It isn’t that different in my mid-fifties than it is for a young artist and where they are in the history of their work. You still have to make this place where you can sit in your own questions and be comfortable and trust not knowing what something is. I don’t think that ever goes away.” – Ann Hamilton (installation artist)


“One reason I like gardening is that I get a lot of ideas when I’m watering plants or pulling weeds. Musical ideas start going through my head, I’ll be hearing things, and sometimes I’ll have to wash my hands and run into the house and write it down.” – Terry Riley (new music composer)


Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.” – Jim Jarmusch (indie filmmaker)


“…The drawings are preliminary to a larger project. They do evidence my thinking and on some level they demonstrate that making a painting is an intellectual activity. Paintings don’t just happen. I am not a proponent of the idea of an artist as someone who kind of magically makes things and has no real control or isn’t willfully producing a certain kind of thing. It is labor-intensive and it is research-intensive. You are making one decision after another, trying to get at something you think is important. I don’t often show drawings, but it’s important to know how things came to be as they are. That’s what I’m interested in.” – Kerry James Marshall (painter)


“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Lewis Carroll (writer)


“I think when I make stuff I go through this whole range of emotions, starting with I’m a fraud, I’m never going to be able to make anything ever again, ’til I get to that moment where the material does something that is just beyond me. It lands in a place somewhere between the limits of my knowledge and what one is capable of knowing. Isn’t that what the experience of the sublime really is?” – Tara Donovan (sculptor)


“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams (cartoonist)


“Since my career started, I’ve basically done the same thing over and over again. I mean that in a positive way. I think that’s what good art is – the same process and research, but refining your strategy.” – Rachel Whiteread (sculptor)


“The work tells you what form it needs to take. What’s important is knowing when to put your ego aside so you can see what the work wants to be. Being sensitive to the world around you and paying attention to your aesthetic tools . . . Once you know that you can make it, you get out of the way.” – Carrie Mae Weems (photographer)

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