Sister Corita Kent’s Rules For Creatives – Why they matter today

Sister Corita Kent ca. 1965
Sister Corita Kent ca. 1965

Who was Corita Kent?

Sister Corita Kent (1918-1986) was a Roman Catholic nun and one of the most unusual artists of her time. Kent lived in Los Angeles, where she befriended contemporaries such as Alfred Hitchcock, John Cage and Buckminster Fuller. Inspired by Andy Warhol, she started creating pop art herself, specializing in printmaking and social activism.

Video: Art + Life Rules from a Nun

Art + Life Rules from a Nun

14 min 21 sec

Rules For Creatives

Many people term art as expression. To help her creative students, Sister Corita Kent came up with a set of rules to guide them. These ten rules are not limiting at all. As a creative, there is a lot to pick out from them.

In her rules, Sister Corita encourages her students to traverse the creative journey with a heartbeat and pause occasionally. This advice, if thrown into the modern context, remains very relevant. At times, you must spend more time on something that your heart is more inclined towards. Creating trust with your work and creative process helps to elevate you to another level.

The Rules

  1. Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while.
  2. General duties of a student — pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.
  3. General duties of a teacher — pull everything out of your students.
  4. Consider everything an experiment.
  5. Be self-disciplined — this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
  6. Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail; there’s only make.
  7. The only rule is work. If you work, it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.
  8. Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.
  9. Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.
  10. We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.


Helpful hints

  • Always be around.
  • Come or go to everything.
  • Always go to classes.
  • Read anything you can get your hands on.
  • Look at movies carefully, often.
  • Save everything. It might come in handy later.



The general assumption is that arts and anything creative is for lazy people. As creatives, we know just how far from the truth this statement is. Sister Corita tells her students to work because that is the only rule. The same applies to creatives all over; you must put in work for your art to stand out. Lazy creatives lament all the time, while those who work create more chances for themselves to stand out.

For many creatives, their projects never get finished because they attempt to create and analyze at the same time. If we are to learn something from life, it is that these two need you to be in a certain frame of mind. Creating requires passion and free will while analyzing demands scrutiny. The two cannot co-exist together.

Sister Corita tells her students that this is going to tamper with their creative process. She urges them to do one thing at a time and see the results for themselves. Even in the modern world, the same applies, and especially so for us creatives. You cannot create a masterpiece if, after each minute, you want to scrutinize it. One must come first and the other to follow.

Rule number one encourages creatives to find a place that they trust and to try and trust that for a while. The importance of this in the life of a creative cannot be underestimated. The creative process involves a lot of spontaneity. However, as we may learn from observing other creatives, a good hand must exist.

The list of rules was picked up by artist John Cage who widely promoted it.

Sister Corita Kent at Immaculate Heart College ca. 1964
Sister Corita Kent at Immaculate Heart College ca. 1964
All images: Corita Art Center unless otherwise noted.


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