Picasso’s Secret to Creativity

Good artists copy, great artists steal.” — Pablo Picasso

This quote by Pablo Picasso was said to be a favorite of Steve Jobs who famously borrowed the concept of the Macintosh computer from a similar device that was shown to him at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center.

Steve Jobs Creative Genius

Many a creative genius have made similar statements (see below) including Newton, Albert Einstein, T.S. Eliot, Martha Graham, Hemingway and others.

However, to borrow others ideas you have to see them, and this means increasing your powers of observation. Go to Starbucks to Learn the Creative Power of Observation.

As you can see in the the following two examples from Picasso, stealing really means taking something as a starting point, then using your creativity to transform it and synthesize it into something new (he borrowed African masks to use in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon).

Creative Artwork by Picasso

Left image: “L’infante Marie Marguerite (1653)”, by Velazquez. Right image: “L’infante Marie Marguerite (1957)” by Picasso

Creative Art “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907)” by Picasso

Left image: African mask viewed by Picasso in Paris (1906). Right image: “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907)” by Picasso

Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”

Isaac Newton and creativityThe lesson here is that we all should stand on the shoulders of giants by using our passion to absorb everything there is to know about a subject and beyond a subject, then use our creative powers to advance the cutting edge.

Read and experience way beyond your subject, seek wide experiences (slam poetry), think of your mind as a sponge (take classes), and soak it up (read a newspaper), make your experiences a thousand miles wide (travel to India), open the door for serendipity (visit a library), be curious (ask a million questions) and observe.

Without sand, you cannot create a magnificent sand castle, and without marble you cannot create the Taj Mahal.

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources,”  Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein Creative Genius

Hemingway said, “It would take a day to list everyone I borrowed ideas from, and it was no new thing for me to learn from everyone I could, living or dead. I learn as much from painters about how to write as I do from writers.”

Hemingway Creative Genius

T.S. Eliot said, “Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal.”

T.S. Eliot Creative Genius

Wilson Mizner (screenwriter) said, “If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism, and if you steal from many, it’s research.”

Wilson Mizner Creative Genius


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