The Influence of Art on Inspiration & Creativity


According to a new research published in the Journal of Business of Research, the answer is yes.

Since ancient times, it has been believed that inspiration is intrinsically linked to the forming of creative ideas. In Greek mythology, Muses were viewed as goddesses of inspiration, who were thought to reach out to creators and guide them to produce brilliant works in  the fields of literature, science and the arts

In his essay “On the Creation of Art”, Monroe Beardsley begins his exploration by stating that creative artists themselves, since the time of Homer and Hesiod, have also wondered about where the artistic creative power to put the unseen and the unthought-of into existence comes from. One of the most popular artists in the world, Salvador Dali, approves. In his documentary, A Soft Self Portrait, Dali himself discusses his works and confirms that he also doesn’t know where his ideas come from.

“But it is very normal, that nobody can understand Dali. Because myself, never understand my work. Because Dali only creates enigmas”.

“From the creator’s point of view, intuition is enigma”, says Professor Margaret Boden in her book The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms. She explains this mysterious artistic creative process by using the expression “The bath, the bed and the bus”. The bath refers to Archimedes and the place where he had his ‘Eureka’ moment, the bed alludes to Friedrich von Kekule, whose dream led to the realisation of a new branch of science, and finally the bus refers to the moment when Henri Poincaré made a discovery in geometry. Boden believes that many creatives do have similar experiences to the aforementioned trio, and that creative ideas do indeed often come as a surprise, when the person seems to be thinking about something else, or perhaps not really thinking at all. 

Globally-renowned performance artist Marina Abramovic agrees with this idea, as can be observed when she talks about the artistic creative process in the ‘Innsaei’ documentary:

“You have to first put everything of yourself into the work. Then when you know that you have done everything, you actually have to let it go. Then things happen by itself, and that’s when comes the intuition. All comes from that moment; the moment when you are not expecting. Not when you are actually doing it.”

Henri Poincaré describes these unknown moments as “inspiration”; he suggests that the creative process commences with conscious thought, followed by the unconscious work. Based on Poincaré’s view, Graham Wallas, in his book Theory of Art, defines the creative process as consisting of four stages: "Preparation, Incubation, Illumination and Verification." 

The third stage, Illumination, is the most striking part of this formula. The ‘Aha’ or ‘Eureka’ moment is defined as a flash of insight that the conscious self can’t will. It is said to happen once all the elements gathered during the preparation stage have been processed in the subconscious during Incubation, and are now ready to click into an illuminating new formation. 

The authors of The Fine Arts, Neurology and Neuroscience do not necessarily agree with Wallas. They suggest that this stage is not an independent factor in the creative process, and indeed that’s why they call it “creative innovation” instead. They add that “creativity ideas may also occur with entirely conscious thinking, and many important creative advances were not made by great leaps but rather made by a series of steps.” 

Counterarguments aside, agreement can be reached on one point: The preparation or knowledge-gathering stage later  turns into an inspiration, whether intentional or unintentional.

How do we get inspired ? 

The research essay on "The inspirational power of arts on creativity" published in the Journal of Business Research focuses on the influence of art on stimulating inspiration. The academic journal examines how engaging with art leads to creativity.

"In recent years, an increasing amount of attention has been paid to the ways in which art might benefit business organisations, marketing and strategy and research has revealed several beneficial effects of art interventions for companies", the thesis begins.

Their research suggested that individuals who engage with more artistic activities tend to be able to think differently, and will display more creative behaviours and interests, and will experience greater inspiration, as a result.  

Taking the literature review into consideration, it was expected that there would be a positive correlation between aesthetic experiences, inspiration and creativity, and the writers An Donghwy and Youn Nara predicted that "openness to aesthetics and the experience of art enhances individuals' creativity by imbuing them with a sense of inspiration".

The results indicate that learning more about art helps us to gain a heightened artistic sensibility, enabling us to embark on a voyage of aesthetic experience, and that appreciating works of art generates inspiration and thereby enhances creativity.

Clive Bell was right. "To be able to create better, one must possess two qualities: artistic sensibility and a turn for clear thinking. Without sensibility a man can have no aesthetic experience.

Conclusion:  - The more you engage with works of art, the more creative you will become!

To learn more about the research, take a look at the video above!