Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How Genius Works

What ignites the creative energies of geniuses? The Atlantic has a wonderful feature in which 14 artists are interviewed about their first drafts.

"Great art begins with an idea. Sometimes a vague or even bad one. How does that spark of creativity find its way to the canvas, the page, the dinner plate, or the movie screen? How is inspiration refined into the forms that delight or provoke us? We enlisted some of America’s foremost artists to discuss the sometimes messy, frequently maddening, and almost always mysterious process of creating something new."

Included in the list are:

-Chuck Close, a hyper-realist painter who discusses how he makes a portrait and why he favors neutral expressions.

-T.C. Boyle is an award-winning novelist and short story writer who discusses the impact technology has had on his creative process.

-Paul Simon, the 12-time Grammy winner, shares pages from the lyric notebook he used to write his new album, So Beautiful or So What.

Paul Simon says, "You know, I haven’t spoken to any of the other guys of my generation about how they write songs. I’ve known Bob Dylan for a long time and I’ve known Paul McCartney for a long time, but we’ve never talked about songwriting. Poets seem more inclined to reveal how they work. Friends of mine like Billy Collins, for instance—he gets an idea and he writes it down and if he doesn’t finish it in that first burst of energy, he lets it go. With me, if it’s a good idea and I don’t have it right, I stay with it. You have to be patient, just keep erasing what you don’t like. At a certain point it becomes alive, and you know the problems are solvable with solutions you may have used before. That’s my songwriting process."

-Tim Burton, the Academy Award-winning director with a style all his own, explains where he drew inspiration to bring the characters from Alice in Wonderland to the big screen.

-J. Mays, the celebrated auto designer, shares the process by which he and his team of designers are creating a brand new Ford concept car.

-Frank Gehry, the distinguished architect discusses the drafts for an angular new building, the New World Symphony Miami.

'Look, architecture has a lot of places to hide behind, a lot of excuses. “The client made me do this.” “The city made me do this.” “Oh, the budget.” I don’t believe that anymore. In the end, you have to rise above them. You have to say you solved all that. You’re bringing an informed aesthetic point of view to a visual problem. You have freedom, so you have to make choices—and at the point when I make a choice, the building starts to look like a Frank Gehry building. It’s a signature.'

Grant Achatz, one of the most creative chefs in the world, discusses how he envisioned and then perfected a new dish for his Chicago restaurant.

Bonnie Fisher and Boris Dramov: Two principal architects from the ROMA Design Group share the sketches that won them the commission to design the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial.

Pursue the link to this excellent feature. It's delightful transcendence.