I call myself an artist now. Not that this was never not true. But generally, when the label ‘artist’ is tossed around, it’s usually an attribution given to those who produce drawings and paintings first and foremost — like my father, who is himself, a painter in the fine arts genre.
For the past few years when people would ask, I would say to them “I’m a writer.” Of course, it would lead to the question of what kind of writer am I, and then there it would get a bit tricky. For the past two years, I was a graduate student studying journalism and I’ve been a freelance journalist for the past few years. It was extremely easy to fall into that category of being known as a ‘journalist.’ I proudly graduated with a master’s degree in journalism in 2020, being just a little more punctilious about the spread of misinformation, much to the annoyance of my family and close friends. But I’ve also always been a literary writer, secretly toiling away on my short stories and other literary pieces, and publishing them in both known and obscure journals. And then, of course, I could produce quick website copy for brands like it’s nobody’s business. These are all forms of writing that I do and I’m good at, and this is an art form I’m particularly proud of.
I also draw — still life and portraits. I’m also a fashion illustrator and designer, another art form I enjoy that many who know me never cease to let me forget. I spent the majority of 2020 fielding questions about my fashion work and when I will begin producing again. Unlike the interrogations about what kind of writing I do, the line of questioning about my drawing and fashion work often leaves me without a satisfactory response to give. The conversation usually meanders towards people being baffled at why I can’t choose one art form over the other and stick with it. For years, I’ve internalized that negative energy and stumbled through life with an identity crisis because I questioned what I should (or should not) be doing. There is this ubiquitous modern movement that packages individuals into ‘brands.’ As a brand, an individual follows a general trajectory that the public has come to expect.
Master writers like Leo Tolstoy, Rabindranath Tagore, and Lorraine Hansberry enjoyed both writing and other art forms that allowed them to express their creativity and display their work. No branded Instagram was needed. No box to fit into. After surviving the tumultuous year 2020, I came out understanding that my identity isn’t wrapped up in what other people say I am or think I should be or should do, but instead in who I want to be at any given moment as long as I’m happy. As we begin a new year, I CHOOSE to do work I love, in the areas I love, and it really doesn’t need to make sense to anyone else.
I write. I design. I make things. I call myself an artist now. If you don’t believe me, check out my Instagram (I made it IG official!)