I like my drive to the gym. It’s right after work, just 12-17 minutes to myself. I like it because it’s enough time for me to sort of just melt into a pre-workout calm; the mental buildup of angst works its way out from between the sulci of my brain, and reallocates itself throughout my body, intertwined in the fibers of my muscles. By the time I park and throw my bag over my shoulder, my mind is focused and my muscles ready to sweat out the toxins from the day’s stress.
Sometimes on my drive my mind will pull away from my surroundings, and I start thinking, making observations, asking myself questions. Yesterday’s train of thought was fun. Last week I successfully completed all of my pre-requisistes for physical therapy school (already celebrated). It’s been an arduous two year endeavor; there have been a lot of highs, and equally as many times when I fell flat on my face, making me question if I made the right decision in committing to this pursuit. I made a lot of personal sacrifices, postponed a lot of frivolity…and now I’m done, until I start PT school. Now, I’m waiting. I’m preemptively planning to do a second round of applications, but until the end of May, I still cannot commit to anything else long term because of the small chance of being taken off a wait list (I already have never liked the month of May in the first place because it drags on, so put yourself on a waitlist for grad school and you’ll understand just how painfully slow time can move).
As I wait, I continue to think. I just put myself through two years of science courses. The four and a half years before that, I was earning a degree in studio art with an emphasis in graphic design. I don’t need to conduct a survey to say that the question I am most frequently asked is “Wow, what made you want to swtich to something so different?” To be completely honest, I have had myself stumped on this question for the last two years; and through this whole process, I haven’t been able to find answer that I was satisfied in telling people, and not having a good enough answer for both myself and others has actually stressed me out quite a bit…until today.
I spent a lot of time in the liberal arts, a field known for creative and abstract thinking. Then I spent time in the endless world of science: chemistry, biology, physics, anatomy; I needed to shake the rust off my ability to learn textbook material. I see now that taken at face value, these two broad subject matters seem radically different. After letting, not forcing, my mind to dwell on the thought I realized that there is indeed a bridge that relates them on a closer level than most might realize. At least, in my own experience, I found a bridge.
Those who are, and have been the most successful in either art or science have allowed themselves to ask questions about what it is they have in front of them. My last semester as an art student I took a mixed media course (though I ended up up gravitating toward graphite and charcoal). Except for one that is on display at Baylor, I still have each monstrosity of a drawing I executed. Before I started each work, my first question to myself was “What am I trying to ultimately accomplish?” Then I would leap.
I succeeded as an artist that semester because I learned to let go of inhibitions, to not restrain ideas; to try an approach and either run with it or black it out and try something else. My own trial and error. That semester, my theme was abstract. At the time, I was unaware of how much this would impact my way of thinking…just about life in general. I had to learn to just let things flow and unfold naturally.
A successful still life shows that the artist has skilled dexterity, strong attetion to detail of form and light and shadow. A successful abstract piece not only communicates a certain emotion, but it also promts the viewer to ponder the purpose of the work’s undertaking (please, do not think I am someone who put two squares on a canvas and said “voila!”). So, I would work, pause, ask “why?” Why did I chose that style of markmaking? Why did I heighten the contrast here, but downplay it there? This was the cycle that I was mentally and physically chained to until ultimately, I got it.
Looking back on the last two years, I see that those chains stuck…or maybe I lost the key, not sure really. Studying science material from a textbook took the same approach. “What am I trying to accomplish?” Work. Pause, “why?” Why does nature prefer disorder? Why is the thyroid not producing enough hormone?”A million different times I asked myself “why?” There is a better understanding of a material when the purpose of seeking an answer is to learn and practice and the desire genuine.
People who work in both fields are seeking truth and purpose. Think. Execute. Think. Execute. It’s the pattern of both. The bridge between art and science used to exist in a more natural way before becoming as polarized as they are today. DaVinci gave more to the world than the Mona Lisa. He used his expertise of illustration to communicate his ideas about the human body. Later on Max Brödel used his knowledge of the medicine and the human body and his ability to communicate visual information to become the father of medical illustration.
A work of art came from an idea. The discovery of the atom came from an idea. Every second trillions of ideas pass among the electric and magnetic fields that permeate our atmosphere, are ricocheted off sound and light waves that never cease to vibrate. The ideas that become success are those that started with a question, and then nurtured under collaboration of differences. Though on the outside it may appear as though those immersed in science and technology have a one track mind, a strong commonality is that, along with artists, they have a natural aptness for open-minded thinking and inquisitiveness. Neither fears the unknown.
On my wall is one of my own drawings (when I can afford to support other artisits I will). It’s abstract, but the subject matter I used as inspiration was from a histology slide, that of a slice of tonsil to be exact. It’s my everyday physical reminder that the bridge is not so outlandish. So, to answer my own question then, why I made such a drastic switch…well, it wasn’t all that drastic. All that really changed was the subject matter in which I immersed myself. I simply grew tired with the first.