One Month In

I started a two-month-long residency at Goodyear Arts on July 1st. When I told people about it, they’d say some variation of, “oh, I didn’t know you were an artist.” And then they’d ask, “so what are you going to be making?”

“Good question.”

Goooooood freaking question. I’d applied to this residency a few months ago with four vague paragraphs describing this idea I wanted to explore. When the residency started, I thought that bit of writing might be a good place to start. So I trawled the depths of my email account, pulled those paragraphs out, and read:

“I envision that the culmination of the two months’ worth of work will be interactive in some manner, drawing upon physical art such as painting and sculpture, and digital art, such as animation and virtual text.”

What does that even mean? Past Ramya is no help at all. Here I am, in this room, supposed to ‘make art’. Past Ramya might have called herself an artist when she applied for this thing. Present Ramya’s feeling a bit like an impostor.

But I’m here now, and I have to make something. So I get out a stick of charcoal, rip out a sheet of paper from my 18 x 24 inch Canson drawing pad (I’m an artist, okay?) and start drawing. Each stroke builds a little more confidence. I take a break to go to the bathroom and notice a little smudge of charcoal on my cheek. Excellent. This totally makes me look more like an artist.

I finish up what I’m going to call a ‘textural exploration’, and put it on the wall. It’s exhilarating to have made something. It feels really good to have something on the wall.

I keep looking at it, and the good feeling starts to go away. I haven’t worked with charcoal in four years, since the semester I decided not to double-major in visual art. I’d spent those four years working on my design skills, working on my writing, learning boatloads about storytelling. I’d spent so much of that time thinking about art and creation and how it defines us as human beings.

And yet, when given a room and told to make art, I have reverted to the most traditional art form. How uninspired. What a hoax.

So I take it down. The wall is bare again.

Crap.

That sheet of dirty charcoal paper was like a dam holding back an ocean of insecurity that came crashing down when I pulled its four sticky corners off the wall.

What am I doing here? I’m not an artist. This is dumb. What am I even making? People are going to think this is dumb. I think this is dumb. I don’t have a degree in this. No one’s going to want to look at this. This is so embarrassing. Why did I think I could do this? This is so dumb! Someone else should’ve gotten this. I’m not a real artist. What am I doing here???

I’d like to say that a month later, none of these questions come up anymore. But I’d be lying. A month later, I’m still oscillating between being terrified about making something and feeling exhilarated about having made something. I’m still drawing with traditional charcoal, as if black smudges and dirty fingernails give me some sort of legitimacy as an ‘artist in residence’. I’m still falling into the traps of framing my ideas as questions that need permission to be asked.

But there’s only one month left. There’s no more time for permission or apologies. There’s only one month left, and I’m here now, and I gotta make some crap.

Goodyear Arts is a program that hosts innovative artist residencies & events in underused buildings. To find out more, check out http://goodyeararts.com/. The show will be up on August 26th!