All you need is creativity: We ask creatives to imagine love letters to their practice
A true love story never ends. That’s why, this Valentine’s Day, we’ve gathered love notes from a range of creatives across the world, and asked House of Gül, Aki Hassan and Hannah Buckman to each draw up a letter to their most enduring companion: creativity.
Roses are red and violets are blue, but how often do we look at our creative practices and say, I love you? Probably not often enough. That’s why, this Valentine’s Day, we’re taking a step away from the chocolate hearts, flower bouquets and dates at Nando’s to look at the thing that gets us up in the morning, enabling us to share ideas, our feelings and a whole lot more.
As Valentine’s Day approaches each year, shop windows fill up with sequinned cards and cuddly bears, and you’ll see many a frantic partner or friend rushing around for a last-minute bouquet. But while the streets turn red – in a really good way – it’s easy to see how the gifts have, in recent years, gotten in the way of the true message a little. So this year, let’s forget about the presents and spend a moment thinking about one of the truest loves of them all. Because we know it can be tough out there sometimes, especially when working to a tight deadline or experiencing a dose of creative block. To help us remember that there’s much to adore about our craft, we’ve gathered a bundle of uplifting love notes from various creatives around the world – Anu Ambasna, Haein Kim, Sebastián Chicchón, among others – who have all penned a message of appreciation for their mediums (which you’ll see peppered throughout this article). We’ve also invited three creatives to imagine their very own love letters to their practices, with Aki Hassan, House of Gül and Hannah Buckman each drawing up their reasons why they love what they do – looking at the themes they present in their work, how creativity affects their happiness, and why they chose a creative career in the first place.
But before heading any further, we just want to warn you that what you’re about to see is utterly adorable, so be prepared to shed a happy tear or two. And, to top it all off, we’ve also made a downloadable template for you to write your very own love letter and send to your creative practice.
Creativity is one of those long and enduring romances that you’ll never quite get over, like a summer fling that turned into a life-long obsession, whether you were meaning for it to happen or not. However, we all know how much hard grind goes into making something – the gruelling hours spent working away at a project, only to end up at square one again. So why do artists keep coming back, and what do they love about their practices so much?
For House of Gül, a studio founded by Ali Godil, it’s the perfect balance of authenticity and meaning that keeps the team coming back for more. The studio is known for its powerful messaging, whether that’s through artworks inspired by God and the craftsmanship of nature, or the colourful, graphic explorations that reference architecture, poetry and history. And the studio’s love letter crafted especially for It’s Nice That is no different. “Make beauty visible,” writes House of Gül, whose message arrives colourfully wrapped amongst the hand-drawn Arabic calligraphy reading “Ihsan”, which translates to “beauty”. Ali explains how truth and beauty are the key drivers behind the studio’s work, not to mention the joy the team receives from expressing themselves through the medium of design. “My personal philosophy of human expression revolves around being a reflection of beauty, truth and love, which is called ‘Ihsan’ in Arabic,” Ali explains. “This is what I want to capture with my creativity and ultimately my life’s message.”
For others, creativity is an ideal outlet for self-expression – a method for sharing experiences and personal narratives. Aki Hassan, a Singaporean visual artist who makes comics and sculptures, draws on trans identity and representation through a mix of text, illustration, printed materials and sculpture. Revolving around kinship and solidarity, Aki’s works are both experimental and uplifting, channelling narratives of trans experience and in turn blurring the boundaries of art through beautifully crafted line drawings. In the past, we’ve seen Aki break down the traditional structure of comics, as seen in their project Nonbinaryhood, which – through a non-linear style of narrating – explores the fluidity of trans identity and “quieter forms of resistance”. Now, in a love letter to their practice for It’s Nice That, Aki enlightens us all to this message: “dear, with these hands I carve out worlds for us to see together.” Incorporating a comic-style grid filled with words and illustration, Aki’s letter calls for unity – a quest that’s achieved through gentle compositions, a warm colour palette and strong use of a pencil and paper. They use their practice as a tool for resistance and change, and this letter is a pure example of how Aki loves the process this entails. “Here’s to carving more worlds with and for one another,” they tell us.
London-based illustrator Hannah Buckman is the third creative we invited to imagine a love letter to their practice. In hers, she’s broken down a typical day into carefully selected scenes: the slow mornings you might have in preparation for the tasks ahead; the in-between moments filled with dancing and listening to music; and the art of doing nothing. These are the bits that she loves best. Hannah shows us how the more mundane tasks can be a necessary part of the creative process – feeding the imagination, and allowing a chance to refuel and persevere.
“With illustration work, I’m trusted to visually interpret someone else’s world and search for commonalities and differences,” she explains. “Then in my personal practice in the studio, I indulge in my own inner world and work through stuff.” Hannah sees creativity as a tool for feeling more connected, keeping motivated and accepting herself and her work for what it is: “I love how drawing and creating is always there for me and can be so nourishing for the soul.” And besides this love letter, we’ve seen some fine examples of how Hannah’s empathetic work has blossomed throughout her portfolio, from a collection of illustrations for The New York Times’ classic Modern Love series to charming, sketchy works depicting female figures, predominantly women of colour.
In other messages of love, Haein Kim – a Sydney-based illustrator who’s known for inducing smiles with her bubbly characters and colourful works – has sent a positive note of joy to her practice. Whether it’s comedic animations or a juicy book made in collaboration with partner Paul Rhodes, Haein strives to go against the grain of the busy, oversaturated digital world and offer up some happy alternatives. For her message to creativity, she says: “In a time where instant gratification is abundant and the norm, I’ve come to fall in love with the slow joys of animating. It’s truly magical watching a series of still images being strung together day by day, slowly coming to life. To animate a funny reaction that’s just a quick second to a viewer takes time and devotion.”
And while Haein adores the steps it takes to complete an artwork, Tokyo-based illustrator Bon Kyupi prefers what happens when it’s completed – more particularly, the impact it will have on the viewer. Bon is known for making invigorating pieces that depict various objects and food: “My illustrations pop and brighten people’s hearts,” she says. And we couldn’t agree more. Not only do they enliven the senses through interesting colour palettes; they also encourage the audience to stop for a moment and take a breath. “I hope that my illustrations will inspire viewers to think deeply about various things, but I also hope that I can make life easier by not thinking too deeply about it and just go about it in an appropriate and relaxed manner, even if only with narrowed eyes.”
Meanwhile, in a note of self-love and empowerment, Florence Burns – a chronically ill, queer person based in Manchester – recounts the power of art and portraiture as a “means to confront social or political issues” that are close to her heart, she tells us. With vibrant artworks that emphasise queer joy and self-acceptance, Florence uses her medium to challenge cis-heteronormativity and ableism. “Making art aids me in representing my views and mental state, and I find the process to be a deeply personal, cathartic act of self-validation which assists as a release from bi-erasure, bi-phobia and experiences of repressed sexuality and identity,” she says, describing her pieces as love letters in their own right. “Ultimately, my practice is a tool that connects me to the communities I am a part of. Creating art is my means of survival and is intrinsic to who I am.”
As you’ve seen here today, no two creative practices are the same, and everyone has their own reasons for why they spend their waking hours doing what they do. Creativity, in this sense, can be thought of as a love heart-shaped box of chocolates – a medley of different tastes, shapes and patterns. You simply need to try all the flavours to find your favourites, and once you do, you’re never going back.
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.