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.

Chuck Close

Chuck Close

The hyper-realist painter discusses how he makes a portrait, why he favors neutral expressions, and the many ways his style has changed

T. C. Boyle

T. C. Boyle

The award-winning novelist and short story writer discusses the impact technology has had on his creative process—and shares an early draft of his best-selling novel, The Tortilla Curtain

Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Jennifer Yuh Nelson

With DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda II opening in theaters this month, the film’s director describes the three-year process of bringing an animated character to life

Paul Simon

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

Sarah Ruhl & Scott Bradley

Sarah Ruhl & Scott Bradley

A playwright with a uniquely imaginative visual style and a set designer with a particularly artistic process explain how they collaborated on the play Eurydice

Tim Burton

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

J Mays

A celebrated auto designer who’s re-imagined a variety of classics shares the process by which he and his team of designers are creating a brand new Ford concept car

Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry

Long revered for his sculptural style, the Pritzker-winning architect discusses the drafts for an angular new building, the New World Symphony Miami

Michael Bierut

Michael Bierut

The graphic designer shares his sketches for the logo of Miami’s New World Symphony, and discusses how Gehry’s design inspired his work

Grant Achatz

Grant Achatz

One of the most creative chefs in the world—and a leader in the progressive molecular gastronomy movement—discusses how he envisioned and then perfected a new dish for his Chicago restaurant

Laura & Kate Mulleavy

Laura & Kate Mulleavy

Widely acclaimed as two of the brightest young lights in the fashion industry, the self-taught sisters discuss the creative roots of their fall 2011 collection.

Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco

The lyrically inventive, socially conscious artist shares the draft of a track from his new album

Ben Katchor

Ben Katchor

A graphic novelist known for his deeply felt depictions of New York Jewish life takes us through the creation of his latest work, The Cardboard Valise

Bonnie Fisher & Boris Dramov

Bonnie Fisher & 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

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