Welcome! There are more than 900 Inspirational Quotes For Writers, Artists and Other Creative Leaders on this site.
Spend a few minutes exploring. And come back again and again for other inspirational quotes.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Charles Demuth

"Paintings must be looked at and looked at and looked at. . . . No writing, no talking, no singing, no dancing will explain them."

American Artist
1883 - 1935

My Egypt by Charles Demuth
One of the lessons I learned early in my career is not to explain my poetry to others.  If I had to explain it, then either I did not succeed or the reader failed to understand.  I would attend writer's groups where we would share our work and then the group would critique it.  Some writers would keep trying to explain their poems if they didn't feel the group grasped the meaning of the poem.  If you feel you have to explain your poem to the reader, then you failed to write a successful poem.  

I think the same is true of any art form.  You don't need to explain your work.  A painter shouldn't explain the meaning of his painting.  The viewer has the responsibility in the communication exchange to study the work to the best of his ability just as the reader also has some responsibility.  It is a two way street.  

Charles Demuth was born in Lancaster, PA where he lived and worked for much of his life.  He suffered from both lameness and severe diabetes for most of his life.  He graduated from the Franklin and Marshall Academy, an all-male prep school, and studied art at the Drexel Institute and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  While Demuth studied and painted in Philadelphia, New York, Paris and Bermuda, he created most of his mature work in a second floor studio in the house he shared with his mother in Lancaster.  The house is now the Demuth Museum.

Artists often influence each other.  In this case, the painter, Charles Demuth, was inspired by a poem of his friend, William Carlos Williams.

The Figure 5 In Gold (1928)
Inspired by a poem of
William Carlos Williams:
The Great Figure

The Great Figure
by William Carlos Williams

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Audrey Hepburn

"I love people who make me laugh.  I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh.  It cures a multitude of ills.  It is probably the most important thing in a person."

— Audrey Hepburn
British Actress
1929 - 1993

I am by nature a very serious person.  Laughter does not come easy for me.  Yet, I agree whole-heartedly with Audrey Hepburn — laughter cures a multitude of ills.  My wife, on the other hand, is the family comedian and is always making people laugh.  She is the life of the party.  She is always telling me to smile more and I keep telling her to be more serious.  Yet it is probably our ability and willingness to laugh together that has helped our marriage to last more than forty years.

One of our daughters is like my wife.  She does silly things to make people laugh and she is always trying to make me laugh.  She gets excited when she discovers something that make me laugh.  She finds joy in living.  

What I have discovered is that I have a unique sense of humor.  Much of what others find funny I do not laugh at.  I don't laugh at slapstick comedy and I find most sitcoms boring. Yet, someone can say something that is not meant to be funny and I will laugh.  I often find satire to be very funny.

I have slowly learned to incorporate humor into my workshops and seminars, but I don't and can't tell jokes.  I don't have it in me.  Yet, I have found that I can play off the humor that is within every group.  I listen to what others say and spontaneously create short responses that continue and extend the humorous point that someone made.

I believe we have to be able to laugh at life.  Even the best laid plans of mice and men will and often do go astray.  The creative leader has to learn to laugh when things go wrong.  We have to learn not to take ourselves too seriously because in the end it doesn't matter when we are six feet under.  Humor is the key to survival in this difficult and challenging world in which we live.

What makes you laugh?  Do you laugh often?  Do you have those deep belly laughs where everything shakes and tears fill your eyes?  Laughter helps us to relax and unwind and frees up the creative juices.  Most of us serious folks need to learn to laugh more and enjoy ourselves.

Audrey Kathleen Ruston was the daughter of Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston, a British subject, and Baroness Ella van Heemstra, a Dutch aristocrat.  Although she was born in Belgium, Audrey Hepburn held British citizenship through her father.  Hepburn spoke five languages: English, Dutch, French, Spanish and Italian.  Her parents divorced when she was a young girl.

The eleven-year-old Hepburn was living in the Netherlands when Germany invaded in 1940.  During the war, she suffered from malnutrition, developed anemia, respiratory problems and edema.  She secretly danced for groups of people to raise money for the Dutch resistance.  She occasionally  was a courier for the resistance, delivering messages and packages.

During the Dutch famine in the winter of 1944, Hepburn and her family resorted to making flour out of tulip bulbs to bake cakes and biscuits.  She passed the time by drawing.  After the war ended, Hepburn, who had studied ballet since she was five, took ballet lessons for three years from a leading figure in Dutch ballet.  

Hepburn moved to London to work as a chorus girl.  She performed in musical theater revues in 1948, 1949 and 1950.  In 1951, she acted in several British films.  Her big break came when she was selected to play Gigi in the Broadway play in November of 1951 which ran for 219 performances and earned her a Theatre World Award.

In 1953, William Wyler cast Hepburn in the starring role of Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck.  The film garnered her critical and commercial success including Academy Award for Best Actress.  She was signed to a seven picture contract with Paramount.  She starred opposite several of Hollywood's best actors including, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden, Henry Fonda, Fred Astaire, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper.

Here is Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in the movie Sabrina.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Percy Shelley

Portrait by Alfred Clint (1819)
“Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world.”

— Percy Bysshe Shelley
English Poet
1792 - 1822

Is the world a beautiful place?  Or do you see only the pain, sorrow and ignorance?  Do you only taste human sweat and spend your hours wallowing in mud?  Are you so busy with your daily tasks that you don't see what is right in front of your nose?  Do you have time to open your eyes to the beauty and pleasure of the world in which we live?  

I have been so busy the last few weekends tending to the yard that I rarely have time to stop and see the beauty of the maple trees, the scampering squirrels or the playful rabbits. I don't see the shifting of the leaves in the cool breeze or hear the singing of the birds.

Have you taken a walk in the woods?  Have you sat on a log and listened to the sounds of other creatures who inhabit the space that we think belongs to us?  This yard I tend has many other inhabitants who don't recognize my ownership of this land.  The ants move around my yard as they please.  The worms till the soil and only come out when it rains or I put my spade in their home.  The squirrels and rabbits believe my yard is their feeding ground.  They did not ask my permission.  The raccoon that invaded my attic and my neighbor's boat earlier this spring did not ask us if it was okay with us.  The ducks that waddle across the yard do so as they please.

Have you seen the beauty of the world in which you are but one of billions of creatures?  Or are you absorbed in writing that next poem, painting that next painting and paying the bills that you fail to see what is before your eyes?  Our time in this world is short.  We choose every day how we will spend our time.  Take a few moments to see the beauty of this world.

Shelley was born the eldest son of Sir Timothy Shelly, a Whig Member of Parliament, and his wife, Elizabeth Pilford.  He had four younger sisters and a younger brother.  At 18 he attended Oxford, but legend maintains that he attended only one lecture and spent his time reading and writing.  He published his first novel in 1810 and a second one in 1811.  He was expelled from Oxford in 1811 because of a pamphlet entitled, The Necessity of Atheism, that he published.

Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is regarded by many as one of the finest lyric poets in the English language.  He drowned in a sudden storm one month shy of his 30th birthday.  He did not achieve fame in his lifetime.  Recognition of his poetry grew steadily after his death and he had a major influence on the next 3 generations of poets.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Maya Angelou

"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it."

American Author
1928 - 2014

How do you define success? Many people define success as wealth and fame, but these are illusionary and short-lived. Just think of the stories you have read of rich people who are now homeless.

I think Maya Angelou is on the right track when she says that success is about liking and loving yourself and what you do. As creative artists we may never have fame or fortune, but if we like what we do, we are truly blessed. Do you love what you do? Do you enjoy painting, writing, acting or singing? And most creative leaders will answer that they do love what they do. The more difficult questions is: do you like yourself?

Happiness is accepting who you are, no matter what the warts, scars and pimples. Some people live a lifetime and never learn to like themselves. We are all humans and we have all made mistakes. Maya Angelou describes many of the challenges and mistakes of her life in her six autobiographies, including her rape at age eight as well as working as a teenage prostitute. Today Angelou is a celebrated poet, memoirist, novelist, actress and filmmaker. Dr. Angelou has received over 30 honorary degrees. In 2011 President Barack Obama presented Maya Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Have you learned to like yourself? To accept who you are and from where you have come? True success is about loving oneself.

Here is Maya Angelou reading her poem, And Still I Rise, an anthem for us all.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Book Review: Sleeping Preacher by Julia Kasdorf

Book Review:  
Sleeping Preacher by Julia Kasdorf

When I was a child, I was fascinated by the story my mother told about the sleeping preacher, John Kaufman. After graduating college, I set out to write a historical novel about his life. Unfortunately, I ran into some obstacles and never finished the novel. In the early 1900's he had visited the church my grandmother attended. During the late 1800's until the first decade of the 20th century, a number of sleeping preachers arose around the world. The preachers, both men and women, would enter into a trance and preach a coherent sermon. People would stick needles in their legs to see if they were faking.

I was immediately interested in Sleeping Preacher by Julia Kasdorf as soon as I read a review of the book and now I have finally read it. The poet, Julia Kasdorf, also attended the same college I did, a decade later, but I have never met her. While many of these poems address growing up Mennonite, some do not. Kasdorf writes of herself as well as family. The opening lines of A Family History about her mother read:

"At dusk the girl who would become my mom
must trudge through the snow, her legs
cold under skirts, a bandanna tight on her braids."

Each poem is a story packed with description of a world that many of us have never encountered. The opening lines of the poem, August, read:

"Dad's mother was coming home
from picking huckleberries on the mountain
when sunlight spooked the horse, and it tore
through a pasture fence, dragging the buggy
until it broke lose, hurling the children,
killing their mother, spilling
those silver pails of sweet, black fruit."

While the poem goes on to tell of other women who died in the month of August, these opening seven lines encapsulate a powerful story in their own right. The attention to detail builds the story image by image.

In the poem, Friendschaft, Kasdorf captures Mennonite genealogy.

"As I grow up, the great aunts click their tongues.
They are looking for signs of their lives
in my limbs. It's the Hartzler blood that makes you
dark and thin. It's just like Aunt Toot to love
olives and pickles and fuss like a hen.
Your Yoder nose...."

I can't even begin the number of times I heard the same type of remarks growing up. Kasdorf was six when her family bought their first television and she captures that moment in a poem. I was seventeen when my family bought our first TV. I found in these poems much that I have heard and remember.

The first poem of Kasdorf that I read before buying the book was What I Learned from My Mother. The poem discusses what to do when someone dies. She closes the poem with these lines:

"To every house you must enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch."

The title poem, The Sleeping Preacher, tells the story of church reform through the eyes of her great-grandmother. The closing lines read:

"She did not think of us,
only to save us, leaving nothing
for us to touch or see
except this stubborn will to believe."

I highly recommend this book to poets and other readers, especially those interested in learning more about the Mennonite culture and way of life.