I believe art is important and that it is powerful. That's true of anything that can stir, form, and alter your thoughts and the thoughts of others. I speak here about the power of art for expression—meaning art is an experience—but I also refer to art's importance in our ability to learn and teach. Our ability as humans to formulate and communicate ideas and concepts is affected by our visual perception. The world would be a different place if students and teachers (in a school setting or the workplace), implemented even the basic artistic practice of drawing into their lectures and note-taking. I'm confident the communication and understanding of concepts and ideas would improve.
I also believe your ability to express yourself—your voice—is directly influenced by your life experiences and your artistic training. Picasso said paint what you know and I agree. You will subconsciously put into your art feelings, emotions, and ideas if you 'paint' what you know. It is important to remember that Picasso was also trained academically. Nobody doubts that a musician must learn the rules, methods, and theory through study and practice. This gives them freedom to embrace, alter, or abandon. I won't go so far as to say that you can't self-teach yourself academic methods. Perhaps you can. I doubt it, but perhaps its possible. No amount of self-teaching and personal study time can replace an experienced, capable mentor. Also, academic training isn't 'realism' training. There are laws and rules of design that exist for your manipulation and you need to learn them.
I also believe art should be honest, but this doesn't give an artist the freedom to be inappropriate. There is a balance in there somewhere, and your conscience can and should guide it. Any artist who depicts whatever they want to anybody and everybody is not being honest with her or himself. What you depict and where you present it should be carefully considered. Every artist needs to realize the power art has, and carefully consider the effect their art will have on their audience when exposed to it.
Finally, I believe that art instruction should be done correctly—meaning by capable artists who have been properly trained and put in the time and work. Anyone who sets out to teach a method, technique, subject, theory, etc, has a sacred responsibility to do it properly, steeped in the grammar of Classical Art, which are the Fundamentals of Beauty--the laws of visual design. An artist who has received poor or inadequate training, and passes on that training, is doing a disservice to his/her students and to the art world. If you're going to teach, you must put in the work to be a worthy, qualified, capable artist.
I am inspired by many, many artists. Please send me a message if you want to know names. Here I will just mention Vincent van Gogh. Every day on the train to school I read his letters to his brother Theo. Vincent inspires me. Yes he struggled mentally and had addictions. But he inspires me with how hard he worked. He inspires me with how passionate he was. He inspires me with how honest he was in his work. He inspires me with his dedication. He inspires me with his failures. He was unsuccessful, but undoubtedly would have seen success in the last half of his life if not cut short. There's important lessons and motivations in that fact. No he isn't a moral standard I want to emulate, but many of his insights on art give word to my own struggles and beliefs.
"I feel, Theo, that there is a power within me, and I do what I can to bring it out and free it."
--Vincent van Gogh