What We Can Learn From Picasso

Artistic witticisms for actionable advice

Christopher P Jones
5 min readAug 29

Pablo Picasso, 1904, Paris, photograph by Ricard Canals i Llambí. Image source Wikimedia Commons

My attention was grabbed recently when I was listening to an interview with a famous writer.

Midway through, they made reference to a line supposedly uttered by Pablo Picasso:

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

The quote had me nodding along in agreement: that one of the most likely places for creativity to spark is when you’re actually busy making your work.

It’s a sort of joke, and it’s also deadly serious. I think what Picasso was getting at is that it’s no good waiting for inspiration to spur you into action; rather, it is at the canvas where the stimulus will come.

For Picasso, being in the studio with a paintbrush in his hand was what mattered most of all. For the writer who was quoting him, it meant being sat at their laptop, word processor open, typing fingers hovering over the keys.

I’ve since found alternative versions of the Picasso quip:

“When inspiration strikes, I want it to find me working.”

Such variations suggest that Picasso is rarely quoted verbatim. In truth, he hardly wrote anything down about himself or his art — nearly all the words attributed to him come from the reminiscences of friends or through the occasional informal interview.

This makes his quotes decidedly unreliable. Still, a certain flavour of the sort of person Picasso was comes across in these one-liners, turning their enigmatic tenor into something more concrete.

And whatever you think about his art, this strain of mischievous self-assurance is something worth tuning into…


Picasso’s attitude to creativity was often bullish and confident — which makes him hard to ignore. The following quote perhaps gets to the heart of his methods, reminding us that nothing gets done by itself:

“Action is the foundational key to success.”

Picasso was certainly a self-assured and highly active painter who embraced his celebrity with open arms. He saw himself as a maker first and foremost, channelling the same ancient creative energies that had…