In our 2022 Culture issue, out April 24, T followed a group of artists — musicians, chefs, designers, writers and others — throughout the course of a day, exploring the intimate moments of their lives that contribute, in ways small and large, to their creative process.
Every creative person knows that inspiration is everywhere, and yet the question What inspires you? can be both dull and impossible to answer. Inspiration, the alchemy by which an idea makes it from the mind to the page (or canvas or potter’s wheel or dress form), is often inarticulable or somehow unsatisfying. What feels so clear can, once spoken, sound tinny or fragile or banal. It’s why, I often feel, artists find not only solace but hope in hearing about other artists’ processes instead — what do they do, these other people, to make art happen? How do they create? What might their struggles illuminate about our own?
This issue is dedicated to living a creative life, which is something that all of us, whether self-proclaimed artists or not, have available to us. We asked people across ages, genders, races and mediums to explain how they create and, as important, why they create. Over the last two years, many of us who were fortunate enough to have somewhere clean and safe to live concluded that one of the great pleasures of life is making things: be it bread, furniture or clothing. Pleasure is, naturally, one reason why, but there are others, too, some of them inexplicable.
The 34 people profiled in this issue are testament to not only the diversity of art but the diversity of artistic experience. Some I know personally — they are close friends (the architect Daniel Romualdez, the fashion designer Daniel Roseberry), collaborators (the theater director Ivo van Hove) or former colleagues (the playwright Mona Mansour) — but I consider all of them teachers: They are proof that, many times, the best work is made while doing things that don’t look like work at all. Art is created in front of the easel, but it’s just as often made while gardening or waiting for the subway or sitting on a park bench. Art happens in the day’s liminal moments, the times when we’re able to forget, for a few minutes or hours, the self-consciousness of creation and let our minds drift.
Photograph by Joel Meyerowitz. Styled by Jason Rider. Hair by Tomo Jidai. Grooming by Dan Duran
Photograph by Joshua Kissi. Styled by Ian Bradley. Hair by Kendall Dorsey. Makeup by Evelyn McCullough
Photograph by Christopher Anderson. Hair by Sébastien Le Coroller. Makeup by Carole Hannah
Photograph by Kennedi Carter. Styled by Tess Herbert. Grooming by Grace Pae
Along with reminding readers that art demands a state of receptivity, we also wanted to ask artists for their advice: How does one live? How does one keep going? The answers, from 40 artists, are practical (“Pay your taxes”), inspirational (“You gain more respect for yourself … when you say no”) and contradictory (“I’ve always been very, very ambitious”; “I lacked ambition”).
One of the reasons their advice resonates so deeply with me is because, after my day at the magazine is done, I, too, try to make art. And because I’m the editor in chief of this publication, and because I’m a fiction writer, it’s my privilege to get to use this letter to offer some advice of my own: Keep your day job — it means you’ll never have to make creative concessions for money. Don’t internalize criticism, or praise — no one’s opinion about you or your art should matter more than your own. Engage with art outside of the genre you practice — it will remind you how many different ways there are to think, to solve, to be. Forget what you’ve been taught about good practices and habits — there is no single correct way to write, for instance; so much of becoming an artist is unlearning what you think being an artist is. If you can travel, then do so, preferably to someplace you’ve never been and where you know no one — a state of discomfort is a fertile place to be. And finally, you have to finish at some point: The people who get published aren’t necessarily the most brilliant writers — the people who get published are the ones who complete their work.
It all seems so simple, doesn’t it? And maybe it is. After all, art making is mysterious. It is also tedious. And somewhere between those two poles is where the artist lives: magic and drudgery, day after day, for all the lucky years of our lives. — HANYA YANAGIHARA