Recently I ran across a wonderful quote by the artist Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954). After some searching around I found more; they constitute terrific advice for creative artists, in whatever field. They are from his book Jazz, published in 1947. Take them to heart!

Don’t wait for inspiration. It comes while one is working.

One gets into a state of creativity by conscious work.

Work cures everything.

A large part of the beauty of a picture arises from the struggle which an artist wages with his limited medium.

I would like to recapture that freshness of vision which is characteristic of extreme youth when all the world is new to it.

In most cases success equals prison… An artist should never be: prisoner of himself, prisoner of a manner, prisoner of a reputation, prisoner of success.

A young painter who cannot liberate himself from the influence of past generations is digging his own grave.

There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so, he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.

The effort to see things without distortion takes something like courage and this courage is essential to the artist, who has to look at everything as though he saw it for the first time.

Each work of art is a collection of signs invented during the picture’s execution to suit the needs of their position. Taken out of the composition for which they were created, these signs have no further use.

You study, you learn, but you guard the original naivete. It has to be within you, as desire for drink is within the drunkard or love is within the lover.

Fit the parts together, one into the other, and build your figure like a carpenter builds a house. Everything must be constructed, composed of parts that make a whole.

The effort to see things without distortion takes something like courage and this courage is essential to the artist, who has to look at everything as though he saw it for the first time.

An artist is an explorer. He has to begin by self-discovery and by observation of his own procedure. After that he must not feel under any constraint.

Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the various elements at the painter’s disposal for the expression of his feelings.

A musician once said: In art, truth and reality begin when one no longer understands what one is doing or what one knows, and when there remains an energy that is all the stronger for being constrained, controlled and compressed.

It is therefore necessary to present oneself with the greatest humility: white, pure and candid with a mind as if empty, in a spiritual state analogous to that of a communicant approaching the Lord’s Table. Obviously it is necessary to have all of one’s experience behind one, but to preserve the freshness of one’s instincts.

 – From Jazz (1947)

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