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On creativity, part 3: lessons from our world

Updated: Jul 4

“True alchemy lies in this formula: ‘Your memory and your senses are but the nourishment of your creative impulse’.” ― Arthur Rimbaud, Illuminations.

In today’s ever so slightly manic world, it can feel as if there’s a constant pressure to produce the ‘next big idea.’ That’s big with a capital B of course.

And when the pressure to create is full on, we can easily just give up. So how to reconnect? How can we rediscover our creative flow? Perhaps we need to stop running, to stand still and just observe, to ground ourselves again in the world.

Let’s call it trusting alchemy. Its potential is all around us in our everyday routines.


Brandon Stanton mastered alchemy with Humans of New York, an interview series offering a glimpse into the lives of strangers on the streets of NYC. Stanton documents his connection with thousands of individuals in photographs and a subtle, narrative style that reads as an ode to the spirit and humanity of people. The result is a living collection of stories that has captured the attention of millions across the globe.


Biomimicry is the emulation of nature to solve human design challenges.

The clothing fastener VELCRO was invented after George de Mestral noticed the seeds of a burdock plant sticking to his socks and dog's fur on a mountain walk. Wetsuits are modelled on the thick fur of beavers; LED lights owe their intensity to the exoskeletons of firefly lanterns; and the most cutting-edge artificial limbs revolutionising medicine mimic the features of an elephant trunk.

Nature can also be a muse to artists. Vincent Van Gogh’s devotion to the ‘language of nature’ gifted us some of the world’s most loved artworks. The Starry Night (1889) is one of the most transfixing examples of how our senses and memories can lead to magical demonstrations of creativity. Even during his darkest times at the asylum in Saint-Rémy, he repeatedly painted the view from his window, capturing nature bathed in sun, clouds, rain… and most famously, the swirling, glistening, cosmic drama of stars.


When Andy Warhol placed a symbol of mass production and everyday culture into an artistic context, he created the iconic Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962). Warhol ate soup for lunch every day for 20 years. His mother also used to cut up tin cans and turn them into flowers, which he would then paint. An observer of consumerism and lover of bold advertising, Warhol used elements from his daily life, breaking down the division between art and life.

Our inspiration really can be close at hand. Where do you see alchemy in our world?

Images by Getty: and Wikipedia Commons:

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