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Insightful Quotes about Art and Artmaking


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#1 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 04:57 PM

This thread is to serve as an archive for quotes/excerpts that have been eye-opening, inspiring, or significant to you in your exploration of the arts.

THIS IS NOT A THREAD FOR DISCUSSION OR COMMENTS. Anything other than quotes will be deleted by the administrators. If you wish to respond to a quote or discuss it, please start a thread about it.

Hopefully this will grow into a useful resource of great thoughts.

#2 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 04:57 PM

"I think that a good film is one that has a lasting power, and you start to reconstruct it after you leave the theater. There are a lot of films that seem to be boring, but they are decent films. On the other hand, there are films that nail you to your seat and overwhelm you to the point that you forget everything, but you feel cheated later. These are the films that take you hostage. I absolutely don't like the films in which the filmmakers take their viewers hostage and provoke them. I prefer the films that put their audience to sleep in the theater. I think those films are kind enough to offer you a nice nap and not leave you disturbed when you leave the theater. Some films have made me doze off in the theater, but the same films have made me stay up at night, wake up thinking about them in the morning, and keep on thinking about them for weeks. Those are the kind of films I like."
-Abbas Kiarostami:

#3 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 04:58 PM

I think writers with actual intentions generally end up saying things they already thought they knew, and I'm not much interested in reducing my vocation as a poet to something like propagandist. I write poems to find things out, not to communicate some previously ossified conclusion.

-poet Scott Cairns in an interview with Image

#4 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 04:59 PM

It is interesting to note how many artists have had physical problems to overcome, deformities, lameness, terrible loneliness.... It is chastening to realize that those who have no physical flaw, who move through life in step with their peers, who are bright and beautiful, seldom become artists. The unending paradox is that we do learn through pain.

-Madeleine L’Engle

#5 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 04:59 PM

"Let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten your labors. You should sing as wayfarers do--sing, but continue your journey. Do not be lazy, but sing to make your journey more enjoyable. Sing, but keep going."

--St. Augustine

#6 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 05:00 PM

Novelists write out of their deepest selves. Whatever is there in them comes out willy-nilly, and it is not a conscious act on their part. If I were to consciously say, ‘This book shall now be a Christian book,’ then the act would become conscious and not out of myself. It would either be a very peculiar thing to do--like saying, ‘I shall now be humble’--or it would be simple propaganda...

Propaganda occurs when a writer is directly trying to persuade, and in that sense, propaganda is not bad. When I think of Who Am I? (1992), I think of propaganda. But persuasion is not story, and when you try to make a story out of persuasion then you’ve done something wrong to the story. You’ve violated the essence of what a story is."

I ask, "Would you then say that you are a Christian writer?" expecting her to quail at the label.

But she does not.... "A Christian first," she says. "I have a vocation as a writer; that is my calling. But a Christian first."

--from an interview with Katherine Paterson in Books and Culture

#7 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 05:00 PM

You make a movie for people to see. But to provoke them, to engage them in some way--that's the best thing I think you can do. The worst criticism in the world doesn't come from a movie critic. It's an audience member who uses you as two hours of air conditioning because you fit the time slot before the pool opens. And then never tells another person about what you've done. That is the most damning thing, that your sphere of influence lasts only until they get to their car door.

-film director Neil Labute

#8 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 05:01 PM

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. They’re in a good position to comment on how they’re moved (or challenged or entertained) by the finished product, but have little knowledge or interest in your process. Audience comes later. The only pure communication is between you and your work.

-from "Art and Fear" by David Bayles and Ted Orland

#9 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 05:01 PM

It’s a relational experience. Art happens somewhere along a relational arc, between what you are and the object of creation.

-Chaim Potok in an interview in Mars Hill Review

#10 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 05:02 PM

Art happens when what is seen is mixed with what is on the inside of the artist.

-Chaim Potok, My Name is Asher Lev

#11 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 05:02 PM

Jeremiah 15:19 in NIV:

"Therefore this is what the LORD says:

'If you repent, I will restore you

that you may serve me;

if you utter worthy, not worthless, words,

you will be my spokesman.

Let this people turn to you,

but you must not turn to them.' "

#12 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 05:03 PM

...And when Jesus comes along saying that the greatest command of all is to love God and to love our neighbor, he too is asking us to pay attention. If we are to love God, we must first stop, look, and listen for him in what is happening around us and inside us. If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.

-Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark

#13 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 05:04 PM

Here's an interesting clip from Salon Magazine 1999's interview with film director Terry Gilliam (The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, Brazil):

INTERVIEWER: At one point in your life, you studied to be a Presbyterian missionary. Where would you be today if you had taken that path? Any regrets?

GILLIAM: No regrets, but I may have gone to darkest Africa. The idea of being a missionary was a chance to see the world and have an excuse to do so. I basically got fed up with the church because they couldn't take a joke. I was a real little zealot, but was constantly making jokes about God. I used to say: "What kind of God is this that you believe in that can't take my little jokes?" The people in the church were appalled by this. So I walked away.

#14 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 05:04 PM

One may have a blazing hearth in one's soul and yet no one ever comes to sit by it. Passersby see only a wisp of smoke rising from the chimney and continue on their way.

- Vincent Van Gogh

#15 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 05:04 PM

But it sometimes happens that it is not the poet himself, but another, who discovers the wider relevance [of the poet's work]. If so, he is justified in so interpreting it in the place where he finds it; for the relevance was always potentially there, and once seen and recognized it is actually there forever. This does not, of course, mean that we can read into poets anything that we jolly well like; any significance that contradicts the whole tenor of their work is obviously suspect. But it means that in a very real sense poets do sometimes write more greatly than they know; and it also means that every poet's work enriches not only those to whom he transmits the tradition, but also all those from whom he himself derived it.

- Dorothy Sayers, "Dante and Charles Williams", The Whimsical Christian

#16 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 05:05 PM

...if revelation is regarded simply as a system of truths about God and an explanation of how the universe came into existence, what will eventually happen to it, what is the purpose of Christian life, what are its moral norms, what will be the rewards of the virtuous, an so on, then Christianity is in effect reduced to a world view, at times a religious philosophy and little more, sustained by a more or less elaborate cult, by a moral discipline and a strict code of law. 'Experience' of the inner meaning of Christian revelation will necessarily be distorted and diminished in such a theological setting. What will such experience be? Not so much a living theological experience of the presence of God in the world and in mankind through the mystery of Christ, but rather a sense of security in one's own correctness: a feeling of confidence that one has been saved, a confidence which is based on the reflex awareness that one holds the correct view of the creation and purpose of the world and that one's behavior is of a kind to be rewarded in the next life. Or, perhaps, since few can attain this level of self-assurance, then the Christian experience becomes one of anxious hope--a struggle with occasional doubt of the "right answers", a painful and constant effort to meet the severe demands of morality and law, and a somewhat desperate recourse to the sacraments which are there to help the weak who must constantly fall and rise again. This of course is a sadly deficient account of true Christian experience, based on a distortion of the true import of Christian revelation.

-Thomas Merton, Zen and the Birds of Appetite

(This quote was included in an e-mail from recording artist Sam Phillips in answer to an inquiry about her own Christian perspective.)

#17 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 05:06 PM

Creativity represents a miraculous coming together of the uninhibited energy of the child with its apparent opposite and enemy-the sense of order imposed on the disciplined adult intelligence.

-Norman Podhoretz

#18 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 05:06 PM

Most people die before they are fully born. Creativeness means to be born before one dies.

- Erich Fromm

#19 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 05:06 PM

It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.


- E. L. Doctorow

#20 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 05:07 PM

First, I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it. We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.

- Robert Cecil Day-Lewis