They covered the white surface with pink scribbles and green curlicues. One appears to have used purple with a vengeance that would hold ground even against Van Gogh’s characteristically thick brush stokes.
No, they were not graffiti artists. They were the pint-sized pink-and-purple-marker-brandishing visitors at my new studio space in Mainframe Studios last Friday night.
I had spent the past few weeks readying my new studio for that moment. Hoping to welcome not only adults looking for some fun and culture on a Friday night, but young artists with whom I could share the passion I’ve felt since I was old enough to pick up a crayon.
Children, it would seem, need no coaxing to draw when presented with an expanse of crisp white paper and a rainbow array of markers. As I watched them make a beeline to the table, I was reminded that the reason I now inhabit the studio is because I never let go of a childhood dream. Of course there were doubts and detours along the way (and many more to come, I’m sure!), but in the end I’ve always known I wanted to write and illustrate for children.
What I didn’t know was that the path to that goal (or any goal for that matter) often involves declaring an identity that doesn’t immediately feel honest, or even real. It means tapping into that singular child-like logic that says, ‘I draw therefore, I am an artist.’ It’s a hard-won belief in one’s own self-worth that, though it may be bolstered by title and status (being published certainly does help!) actually comes from deep within.
Certainly, when I sit down at my desk in this new, expansive space I do feel something change. It’s a sense of having arrived, of more fully inhabiting the role I’ve always wished to play. But the truth is, I was no less of an artist when I sat on the living room floor, painting in my Sherman Hill apartment. And do you know? That rug is actually really comfortable. I will still create art at my coffee table. And some day it will be published.
I love my new studio and feel immense gratitude that I can enjoy it and share it for the next 11 months. In the end though, Mainframe is merely the trappings of a role I’ve played all my life.
I draw, ergo I am.
I would be remiss if I didn’t extend my thanks to the dedicated Art and Design faculty at Drake University (especially Ben Gardner who nominated me not once, but twice to apply for this residency). I learned a lot in my four years at Drake and I’m glad I can give back as an ambassador of the program that helped me find my place in the greater Des Moines arts community.
Also, thanks to all the other artists at Mainframe Studios who have from the moment I walked in the door, made me feel unbelievably welcome. I am honored to be a member of the Mainframe community.