Hello! How has everyone been? I’m very proud to introduce you all to something a little different on the blog today. I’d like to present to you a local Austin artist, Chamel Raghu – An “Austin Artist Prodigy” as the Harvard Review has deemed him. Talking about ones’ artwork and the intimate details past that can be sensitive to touch on, and I thank Chamel for being open to this interview with me. Now, you have the chance to know the real truth behind all of the rumors of someone who is just like you and me, but with a tough spotlight on them. Check out the juicy details below.
- What ethnicity/culture are you?
My father is from Kerala, India, my mother is Chinese, and my first name is Lebanese. I was born and raised in the United States. Raised in Texas to be exact!
- How long have you lived in Austin? Do you consider it to be a welcoming city where artists like yourself can thrive? I am a born and raised Austin native, and have heard that musicians and artists find the city to be hard to do well in as a creative. Please elaborate on why or why not.
I have lived in Austin since moving here in 1997 to attend UT Austin. I have always felt Austin to be a grand place for artistic expression. I grew up in Odessa, TX where we hardly had trees, much less natural lakes or rivers. Coming to Austin was an eye-opener, Nature abounds. I found this along with the open-minded people of Austin to form a synergy that I find to be unique and rare. I personally do not feel that location is a priority when it comes to creativity, but I could be wrong.
- Do you have plans to move to any other major cities to share your work?
I have talked with people about moving to other cities in America, but feel that Austin is the place for me. New York City a very close second…
- How long have you been “doing” art? Were your formally trained, took college courses? Do you just sketch/draw? Have you pondered developing your talent into other art techniques?
I would say my earliest memories of art have been when I was a toddler sketching with pencil and paper. So I have been doing art for decades? I started painting much later however. I have studied art at the University of Texas at Austin. I think architecture is the type of 3-dimensional art that I am attracted to the most. I am, however, open to experimenting with other art techniques.
- What gets you going on a creative binge? Music? Poetry? Anything that has just happened that strikes a memory or chord with you?
That is a very interesting question. Though I love music and poetry, I can’t really say that they help me create. I usually enjoy music while executing the artwork. I think if I have any creative thoughts, those come whenever they feel like they want to, with music or not. I wish I could just “turn on” a creative machine in my mind by flipping on some music but it works for me quite differently.
I usually find that when in complete silence or when doing something repetitive (where my mind goes on autopilot) that ideas can strike. For example, on a long car ride.
- Do you ever feel un-inspired?…what do you do if you feel this way, to get your creative mind working again?
Haha, I try to believe that I am never un-inspired, I cannot say that I know of a way to make my mind create. It is sort of a random thing.
- Do you have plans to showcase your artwork during SXSW this year? Are there any other art festivals in Austin (or any other state/country) in which you enjoy connecting with other artists and fans?
I do not have any plans to show at SXSW this year, however, I do enjoy walking through different art festivals to meet artists and check out their work.
- Are your family and friends supportive of your art? If you don’t have support of some of those you care about…what would be your advice to another artist who may be experiencing the same thing?
I do get the support of some family and those closest to me. However, support usually means constructive criticism, which I don’t mind at all.
Early on, I yearned for complete support from certain people, but soon learned that any art I do is for me, and me only.
I would tell anyone else who has experienced this that art, I feel, is ultimately self-expression. And honest self-expression doesn’t care about what anyone else thinks.
- Who are your idols/role models, and why?
I am a fan of people who have lived and expressed themselves honestly.
I am an even bigger fan of those who have expressed themselves truthfully and left a body of work, whether it be teachings, art, music, literature, poetry or even thoughts that still bewilder us long after their death.
- What one quote would you transcribe into being who you are?
It is art that saved me from destroying myself.
- Where is your favorite place to practice/perform your art? Do you need complete silence and a preferred environment? Do these factors determine whether or not you create your best art?
When it comes to idea formulation, I feel that can happen anywhere and at anytime. Loud or silent, in my experience.
However, when it comes to executing a painting or drawing, I enjoy a relatively controlled environment with a variety of music depending on range of difficulty of the work in progress. The harder the task, the more quiet I have found I prefer.
- Tell me what you feel about the quote, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.
I agree with this to some degree. However, I do feel there are some universal tenets of beauty that Nature provides. That mystery is one that I wish I knew much more about.
- Sorry to do this, I’m sure you’ve been asked this a hundred times…what are your thoughts/response to the Harvard Review first praising you then slamming you? (In particular, the comment of you being lazy) Do you take comments like this personally, and how do you deal with them for your own sake/sanity?
I was flattered to be mentioned among such big names, however, I was startled at first that they would give me such a label. No one ever reached out to me to ask for clarification, they just wrote what they wrote. I can somewhat understand their writing that, but it would have been nice to have been asked directly first.
Maybe if I were to be asked, I would have given them some indication that I may not be that lazy…
I did take it personally at first, but now I have learned that people are going to write basically whatever they want. It is this understanding of what people write that helps me deal with such comments. But, overall, I found the article flattering.
- Again, sorry to ask this question you’ve probably heard many times…do you have an arthritic condition that prevents you from doing your art the way you want? How are you dealing with this?
I have learned that there is a condition with my right wrist that is genetic. It does not mean that I am handicapped, it just means that my range of motion may not be all it used to be; that to achieve certain levels of articulation puts great strain. I am learning to adapt. Over the years, I have learned to not expect recovery, that realization helps keep me positive about what I have.
So, now you know. Remember to never judge a book by its cover. Ask the right questions, and you’ll probably get a clear answer for what you’re seeking. Courtesy of the man of the hour, Mr. Chamel Raghu…Cheers!