I first met Priya in Social Studies in 7th grade. She was new to my middle school and my best friend had just moved away. Priya was looking to belong and I was looking for a new friend. Our union was serendipitous, and somehow taking the chance on the new girl has led to 8 years of friendship. Throughout our friendship, I could describe Priya as many things. Loyal, stylish, and kind are a few words that come to mind, but those words have changed over time. Like all of us, her identity followed the ebb and flow of adolescence. However, one word has always stuck with her and that was “creative”.
Priya was an artist in every sense of the word, always filling up sketchbooks and doodling on the side of her notes. She’d draw things in minutes that would take me at least an hour to attempt. I had the privilege, or curse depending on how you look at it, of taking many art classes by her side. She’d have a look when she was drawing. Her eyebrows would furrow and her lips would scrunch up to meet her nose. It meant she was focused, and I knew that in these moods I should let her do her thing.
Me: What kind of art do you do?
Priya: Right now, I mostly do digital. I’ve also been inking more, colored pencils, and also have been trying to learn gouache.
Me: Gouache? What is that?
Priya: It’s similar to watercolor, but it doesn’t deteriorate and doesn’t get translucent.
Me: *nodding, impressed* Nice, never heard of it.
Art is a funny thing, almost paradoxical in its definition. For that reason, I’ve been interested in what definition people give to their art.
Me: So why do you create art? What is art?
Priya: hmm…like I sit down and it’s art.
Me: *raises eyebrows* Go on.
Priya: Well one thing I love about art is that there is no right or wrong answer. Whatever your mind can think of, you can create. It belongs to you and you can be inspired by whatever. I don’t get very self-conscious about my art, because I can choose how I want it to be. People can choose to judge my work however they want, but at the end of the day the only people’s opinion that matters is mine.
Priya’s art focuses on what she sees in real life. While she had tried to dip her toe into more stylized art forms, she found the real world pulling at her the most. On her art Instagram you can find digital drawings of photorealistic honey, famous faces, and a lot of fruit. She takes the focus of the renaissance and brings it into now. Reminding us all to stop and take a look at the beauty of the everyday.
Me: I see your style is pretty realistic, what draws you to realism?
Priya: I’m a big fan of photography, about capturing moments and memories, and I think realism allows for that.
Me: I know you moved around a lot when you were younger, do you think that has contributed to your love for realism and photography?
Priya: *nods and laughs* yeah, I think that might have something to do with it. It’s a way of taking temporary moments and putting them into the physical world. Realism is a way I stay grounded, and that’s something I’ve had to do daily. I have to ask myself deep questions and remind myself that I am here, I am alone and at the end of the day, that’s what’s most important.
Me: So art is constant?
Priya: *nods* art is constant
Priya, aside from being an artist, is a strong advocate for immigrants in the United States. As a child, she moved around a lot and was always left uncertain when she could go back home to India and if she could, would she be able to return. Such circumstances breed a certain anxiety around uncertainty, but art doesn’t have that uncertainty for her. It provides her a place to land, a place to feel grounded.
Me: So how would you say art impacts your mental health?
Priya: I think it has a very positive impact. It helps me sort out my emotions.
Me: Is there a certain mood you are most inspired to create art?
Priya: Yeah, of course, you can ask my mom even. She says I create the best art when I’m angry. It serves as an outlet for whatever is going on inside me.
Priya’s art teaches us the importance of grounding, and the beauty in stillness, even when everything feels like it’s spiraling out of control. Think of honey about to spill from the bottle or fruit in the middle of peeling. These instances remained unfinished, ready to be unwound by time, but even still they exist in that very moment. That’s the moment Priya captures, grounding herself and the rest of us in the beauty of a sweet, simple memory.
You can find Priya and her art on her Instagram and Etsy page linked below:
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