Tim Burton quotes on creativity

Timburton  One thing you can say for sure about Tim Burton, you can recognize a film as his within the first five minutes. From Pee-wee’s Big Adventure to Big Fish to Sweeney Todd, very few directors can put their creative stamp on material as clearly as Tim Burton.

His background as an animator contributes to the amazing imagery in his movies, which carry his personal style as if he’d drawn them. Frustrated with being labeled childlike, he rightfully points out that his movies deal with adult themes like alienation, complex relationships and death. They are fairy tales for adults and children, with themes we all deal with blown up to operatic proportions.

Hopefully, the quotes below give some insight into his development as an artist and his creative process.

I remember, I was at Cal Arts and I wasn`t a good life-drawer; I struggled with that realistic style of drawing. And one day I was sitting in Farmer`s Market sketching, and it was this weird, mind-blowing experience. I said, `Goddammit, I don`t care if I can`t draw, I`m just gonna draw how I feel about it.` All of a sudden I had my own personal breakthrough, and then I could draw, and satisfied myself. I`ve had very few experiences like that, and I`ll never forget it.

You always have to feel like it’s going to be the greatest, even if you know it’s going to be a piece of crap.

One person`s craziness is another person`s reality.

Children are not perverted in a way. It has more to do with the culture. When children are drawing, everybody draws the same. Nobody draws better than everybody else. There’s a certain amount of strength, there’s a certain amount of passion, there’s a certain amount of clarity. And then what happens is it gets beaten out of you. You’re put into a cultural framework, which gets beaten into you. To punch through that framework, you have to maintain a certain kind of strength and simplicity.

Why not, if something is going to be flawed, why not have it be interestingly flawed, as opposed to boringly flawed?

All monster movies are basically one story. It’s Beauty and the Beast. Monster movies are my form of myth, of fairy tale. The purpose of folk tales for me is a kind of extreme, symbolic version of life, of what you’re going through. In America, in suburbia, there is no sense of culture, no sense of passion. So those served that very specific purpose for me. And I linked those monsters and those Edgar Allan Poe things to direct feelings. I didn’t read fairy tales, I watched them.

I think the atmosphere that I grew up in, yes, there was a subtext of normalcy. I don`t even know what the word means, but it`s stuck in my brain. It`s weird. I don`t know if it`s specifically American, or American in the time I grew up, but there`s a very strong sense of categorization and conformity. I remember being forced to go to Sunday school for a number of years, even though my parents were not religious. No one was really religious; it was just the framework. There was no passion for it. No passion for anything. Just a quiet, kind of floaty, kind of semi-oppressive, blank palette that you`re living in.

Why do I like clowns so much? Why are they so powerful to children? Probably because they are dangerous. That kind of danger is really what it’s all about. It’s that kind of stuff that I think gets you through life. Those are the only things worth expressing, in some ways: danger and presenting subversive subject matter in a fun way.

Creativity is a Conversation

Reading Ken Robinson’s book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. So far, it’s amazing. It’s about finding out what your passion is, how to get good at it and how that will make you happy.

Passion + Talent = Happiness

This quote has stuck in my head for a couple of days because it just seems so right:

“You can think of creativity as a conversation between what we’re trying to figure out and the media we are using.”

I think it should be “figure out or express,” but that’s just nit picking. Lots to think about in that statement.

Federico Fellini quotes on creativity


Federico Fellini directed some of the best films of the 20th century. He was an artist who changed the films that came after him. If you’ve never seen one of his films watch 8 1/2, La Strada or La Dolce Vita and you’ll be amazed at how many movies you’ve seen reference or outright copy him.

When choosing the image to accompany these quotes, I had to hold myself back from choosing an image from one his films. Not that Fellini would have minded, as you will see from the quotes below he didn’t distinguish between life an art. In fact, as he points out, he doesn’t see the difference between reality and imagination as a useful distinction.

Fellini’s films really explore what it means to be a movie. His own life, random occurrences on set, hallucinations and sharp shifts in tone all play into the story. For him, life and creativity were inseparable. Here are a few of his thoughts.

A created thing is never invented and it is never true: it is always and ever itself.

All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.

Realism is a bad word. In a sense everything is realistic. I see no line between the imaginary and the real.

What is an artist? A provincial who finds himself somewhere between a
physical reality and a metaphysical one…. It’s this in-between that
I’m calling a province, this frontier country between the tangible
world and the intangible one—which is really the realm of the artist.

The artist is the medium between his fantasies and the rest of the world.

You exist only in what you do.

I’m perhaps a special type of spectator. I experience pleasure when I find myself in front of something that is the absolute truth, not because it resembles life, but because it’s true as an image for itself, as a gesture. And therefore vital. It’s the vitality that makes me appreciate and feel that the action succeeded. I think the expression of an artist’s work finds consensus when, whoever enjoys it feels as if they’re receiving a charge of energy, like a growing plant does, of something pulsing, mysterious, vibrant with life.

A good opening and a good ending make for a good film provide they come close together.

Money is everywhere but so is poetry. What we lack are the poets.

I don’t believe in total freedom for the artist. Left on his own, free to do anything he likes, the artist ends up doing nothing at all. If there’s one thing that’s dangerous for an artist, it’s precisely this question of total freedom, waiting for inspiration and the rest of it.

For every creative person, fantasy has certain aspects of obsession. Being unable to free oneself from these fantasies is a kind of torture.

Work is a protective canopy from dark thoughts about the flying time. Creativity creates energy, and energy stimulates the feeling of life.

Albert Brooks on creativity, criticism and the internet

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Albert Brooks, the brilliant comedian and filmmaker, participated a Rolling Stone survey of comedians called “What’s So Funny?” One of the topics they were asked to comment on is the impact of the internet on comedy. Brooks’ answer is an amazing commentary on how criticism impacts creativity, especially when you’re developing your talent.

I think the internet is slowly going to take down all creativity. Great art of any kind needs a gestation period. It needs a period where people keep their opinions to their fucking selves. You take any artist from the history of the world, from Michelangelo to Bozo the Clown – and if you can have widespread opinion on their first time out, you can kill the great spark that makes them who they are. That is what the internet is allowing. It’s allowing millions of opinions on Day One. It’s almost like, if you show me your newborn baby, and I do complete genetic testing, and I tell you in the first week of your baby’s life that he’s going to make $18,000 a year and work in Africa and be an explorer, and he’s gonna get bitten by a tiger, and there’s a good chance he’s gonna have leukemia. I’m gonna take the joy out of his early child birthdays. Large amounts of opinion too early in an artist’s life is like a cancer.

Songwriting Ideas From Wikipedia – Black Francis Interview

Village Voice Frank Black
Black Francis, lead singer of the Pixies, and incredibly prolific solo artist as Frank Black, gave the Village Voice an interview on his creative process. A lot of it is very specific to songwriting, but I thought this snippet was universally valuable. Beware, if you view your creativity is a fragile flower with magical inspiration from another realm, his method might seem a little mechanical. All I can say is that I have used this exact method before and it works.

Sometimes, you have an idea in your head and it’s just looking for a connection to bring it into the real world. Looking at random things can help it to take shape and connect it to reality more quickly. Plus, you’ll get to surprise yourself.


In the case of Svn Fngrs I had no idea what I was going to write about, but I was really up to the gut to try to go above and beyond the call of duty. And so I was under the gun and I was like, ‘Okay, what the hell am I going to write about here? What am I going to write about?’ And I literally just started doing the random article search function on Wikipedia. And I did this for quite a long time late one evening in a very tired state, and somehow I stumbled upon the article for demigods. And I was like, ‘Oh, demigods.’ And then, of course, ‘Okay, well what is a demigod? And who was a demigod? What do they mean by demigod?’ And, of course, on something like Wikipedia one article has other links in it and suddenly you’re off, you know. So the Internet has become a really great resource for me because I’m not a deep researcher. I just want to have an impression. I just need to find out some facts. I’ve already got my little concept going. My little concept is already in place, but I just need some facts so when I rhyme “phone” with “zone” my couplet – well, hopefully it has some artistic merit on its own, regardless of what it’s about or if it’s about anything – but if it happens to be about something, it’d be nice if it was sort of backing up some cool fact about the subject. It’s satisfying, I think, for the listener and it’s satisfying for me.


Douglas Adams On Creativity and Inspiration

Douglas Adams is one of the great comedic writers of the last 100 years. He wrote for Monty Python and created the enduring Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy series. He was also a great thinker. I have collected a few quotes of his that relate to creativity. My favorite quote is the one about beliefs: “If you don’t change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever. Is that good news?” An excellent question.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

Having been an English literary graduate, I’ve been trying to avoid the idea of doing art ever since. I think the idea of art kills creativity.

The world is a thing of utter inordinate complexity and richness and strangeness that is absolutely awesome. I mean the idea that such complexity can arise not only out of such simplicity, but probably absolutely out of nothing, is the most fabulous extraordinary idea. And once you get some kind of inkling of how that might have happened, it’s just wonderful. And . . . the opportunity to spend 70 or 80 years of your life in such a universe is time well spent as far as I am concerned.

Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a piece of blank paper until a drop of blood forms on your forehead.

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher… or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.

It is a rare mind indeed that can render the hitherto non-existent blindingly obvious. The cry ‘I could have thought of that’ is a very popular and misleading one, for the fact is that they didn’t, and a very significant and revealing fact it is too.

Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.

See first, think later, then test. But always see first. Otherwise you will only see what you were expecting. Most scientists forget that.

If you don’t change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever. Is that good news?

You live and learn. At any rate, you live.

Increase your creativity by making fewer choices


Some people who want to be considered creative spend a lot of time focussed on making every single aspect of their life reflects their creativity. It’s not enough that they are a brilliant painter, they also have to wear crazy outfits and drive around in a car with jewels and feathers hot glued to the outside. Here’s a thought, have you ever tried being completely uncreative in the parts of your life that don’t directly impact your work?

Lots of artists talk about the importance of routine and discipline for their work, but there is also power in making a choice once and sticking with it.

I was reminded of this when I read an article about Devo asking to meet David Lynch. Lynch agreed, but the meeting had to be at Bob’s Big Boy. You see, Lynch ate lunch there every day. This is how Lynch describes it:

I like things to be orderly. For seven years I ate at Bob’s Big Boy. I would go at 2:30, after the lunch rush. I ate a chocolate shake and four, five, six, seven cups of coffee–with lots of sugar. And there’s lots of sugar in that chocolate shake. It’s a thick shake. In a silver goblet. I would get a rush from all this sugar, and I would get so many ideas! I would write them on these napkins. It was like I had a desk with paper. All I had to do was remember to bring my pen, but a waitress would give me one if I remembered to return it at the end of my stay. I got a lot of ideas at Bob’s.

Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip had the same breakfast, english muffin with grape jelly, and lunch, tuna salad, every day at a diner he built for himself.

Einstein famously didn’t like to think about his clothes and wore the same outfit every day. He said, “I like neither new clothes nor new kinds of food.”

Obviously this doesn’t work for everyone, most people find their creative lives enriched by new experiences. However, spend a few minutes looking at your own life. Is there a decision you dread? A process that takes up too much of your life? Try simplifying it.

Eat the same lunch every day, get your hair cut on the same day every month or stop worrying about the color of your socks. Whatever weighs on you, take control of it!

You just might find that spending less time on the trivial gives your more time for the amazing!

(Read more about David Lynch’s creative life in Catching the Big Fish his book on meditation and creativity. It’s on sale for $5.99 on Amazon and it’s a bargain.)

Argument for simplicity

Copyblogger posted a quote from John Caples, one of the great ad men in history. He wrote, in 1932:

Don’t make ads simple because you think people are low in intelligence. Some are smart and some are not smart. The point is that people are thinking about other things when they see your ad. Your ad does not get their full attention or intelligence. Your ad gets only a fraction of their intelligence . . . . People won’t study your ad carefully. They can’t be bothered. And so you have to make your ads simple.

While this quote is intended to aid commerce, I think it has uses for art as well. I’m not saying all art should be simple, but I think this quote makes a good case for at least an appearance or layer of simplicity that will allow someone to get something from it without their full attention.

If you are creating something that you want to be read or viewed by a large number of people, especially if it’s intended for the web, it needs to be graspable without someone’s full attention. The competition is fierce and you’re lucky if someone is paying even 25% attention when they look at something you’ve created. The complexity can be there, under the surface, to reward the people who decide to look deeper, but they must have a reason to look.

There are lots of places this doesn’t apply, but I thought it was an interesting idea. Don’t dumb it down, just simplify.

John Cleese on how to get out of a creative rut

John Cleese on overcoming a creative rut. This applies to writer’s block or any other time you need to figure out a problem and just aren’t motivated.

I knew a wonderful teacher once—a tutor. He tutored my stepsons and my elder daughter. He said to me, “Always start where the energy is.”

People make an awful mistake by starting where the energy isn’t. If you’re feeling very world-weary—and sometimes we’re all in that boat—you have to sit down with something that’s going to engage you. That doesn’t mean you just switch on the TV and watch a cartoon, but it does mean asking, What would be fun? Maybe take a piece of paper and a pencil and start drawing silly things. Go for a walk. Just sit very quietly watching your breathing. Anything. Just allow the whim to get you going.

Now, you can’t do this all of the time; it’s too disconnected. But I think in that particular frame of mind, when you run out of energy and motivation, I think you have to go right down to the instinct, right down to a whim.

I’m coming up on 60, and I’m wondering where my life will begin to go. I need to take a slightly different direction. I talked to a very wise man, and he said, “If you’re trying to find a new direction, don’t plan it, because this [pointing to his head] has been planning your life up to now. You can’t plan something new with the same old apparatus.” He said, “Leave a gap. Leave a space, and just do things on auto for a while. Just see where these whims take you.”

It’s like creativity. You have to follow it without knowing where you’re going. If you try to control where you’re going, you’re back in the same process. It’s like asking a piece of machinery that’s broken to mend itself.

Stanley Kubrick quotes on creativity

Stanley Kubrick is widely considered to be one of the best filmmakers of all time. From Clockwork Orange and 2001 to Full Metal Jacket, his movies were memorable and unique. Marlon Brando said, “Stanley is unusually perceptive and delicately attuned to
people. He has an adroit intellect and is a creative thinker, not
a repeater, not a fact-gatherer,. he digests what he learns and
brings to a new project an original point of view and a reserved

I’ve collected a few quotes on his process and creativity.

Perhaps it sounds ridiculous, but the best thing that young filmmakers should do is to get hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind at all.

I think the big mistake in schools is trying to teach children
anything, and by using fear as the basic motivation. Fear of getting
failing grades, fear of not staying with your class, etc. Interest can
produce learning on a scale compared to fear as a nuclear explosion to
a firecracker.

If you can talk brilliantly about a problem, it can create the consoling illusion that it has been mastered.

Any time you take a chance you better be sure the rewards are worth the risk because they can put you away just as fast for a ten dollar heist as they can for a million dollar job.

I think it was Joyce who observed that accidents are the portals to discovery. Well, that’s certainly true in making films. And perhaps in much the same way, there is an aspect of film-making which can be compared to a sporting contest. You can start with a game plan but depending on where the ball bounces and where the other side happens to be, opportunities and problems arise which can only be effectively dealt with at that very moment.

I think that one of the problems with twentieth-century art is its preoccupation with subjectivity and originality at the expense of everything else. This has been especially true in painting and music. Though initially stimulating, this soon impeded the full development of any particular style, and rewarded uninteresting and sterile originality.

The events and situations that are most meaningful to people are those in which they are actually involved–and I’m convinced that this sense of personal involvement derives in large part from visual perception. I once saw a woman hit by a car, for example, or right after she had been hit, and she way lying in the middle of the road. I knew that at that moment I would have risked my life if necessary to help her…whereas if I had merely read about the accident or heard about it, it could not have meant too much. Of all the creative media I think that film is most nearly able to convey this sense of meaningfulness; to create an emotional involvement and a feeling of participation in the person seeing it.

How could we possibly appreciate the Mona Lisa if Leonardo had written at the bottom of the canvas: ‘The lady is smiling because she is hiding a secret from her lover.’ This would shackle the viewer to reality, and I don’t want this to happen to 2001.

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