Something I’ve not largely publicized much is that I actually have two degrees. My first bachelors was in Molecular Cell Biology with an emphasis in Immunology from University of California at Berkeley. The shorter version — “MCB Immuno from Cal.”
It’s funny how life can come around full circle without you realizing it’s even doing that.
I studied biology as an undergrad because that’s what I thought was the most interesting at the time. Of course, I was also planning on going to medical school (did the MCATs all the way to secondary applications and all), so it’s not like biology was completely unrelated to my future plans at the time. I didn’t particularly enjoy lab work especially ones as prescribed as college lab courses, so research and the Ph.D. that necessitates didn’t really appeal to me.
Now… 10 years after I finished my bio degree, I find myself somehow doing bio research. It came organically, from dinner table conversations with my husband, who actually did get his Ph.D and is a card carrying researcher and all.
And I wouldn’t have really started doing biology research without… wait for it… my art degree.
My second bachelors was in Art, Concentration in Animation/Illustration and a minor in Radio, Television, Film and Theatre from SJSU. Short version — Animation/Illustration with a minor in RTVF from SJSU. That isn’t that much shorter, so sometimes I just shorten it to “my art degree” or “my design degree.”
I joined the Animation/Illustration program when it was still heavily teaching graphic design principles as part of its fundamental courses. Animation/Illustration is essentially applying design principles to the technical skills of good fine art while hanging it all on a central story, theme or experience. With my minor in RTVF, I was able to explore those themes in longer projects than offered in my home program — in an independent feature-length movie, live action film projects and a theatre production. I’d inadvertently trained myself in 2D art skills, computer graphics, graphic design, spatial design, production management, rapid prototyping, workflow design, screenwriting, marketing, etc while having a lot of fun doing it and being a part of amazing projects.
Everyone should be so lucky.
I’ve had a chance to bring these skills and experiences and also learn from many projects since then, Treatful being one of the more recent ones.
But the one that surprised even me is the resurgence of bio. Specifically, computational and/or quantitative biology, which allows me to take all the best parts about science that I love (learning new things, synthesizing new ideas to inform future understanding) and couples it with my love of design…. in designing new approaches, in designing new methods, in project planning, in prototyping (hypotheses) new approaches, implementing and testing these approaches, collaborating with the research community and the odd website or presentation design here and there.
I think I can finally get over my commitment-phobia and dedicate myself to something longer-term than a contract or freelance position because the value that it can bring to everyone is so huge (all the things that actually made me want to go into medicine). :D
Unfortunately, this probably does mean I’ll have to get a Ph.D. after all. Boooooooo. :P
Orphan Enzymes Project is the first of many of these future projects. Enjoy!
It’s already March! Somehow, time has slipped past so fast already. My mom always says that your age is the speed at which you pass through life, and it seems to be yet another one of those mommisms that’s true whether I want it to be or not. Mamas are eerily wise.
January and February have passed to holidays, to wedding celebrations, birthday celebrations, birth celebrations, trips out of town, building new memories with friends and family, and a lot of in house beautification/organization. I like to think of it as building my life support infrastructure, scattering them all around me. On those inevitable (and at the time seemingly unending) days where I feel down, overwhelmed or just not motivated to do anything, these little bread crumbs of life support I’ve scattered around can remind me how blessed I really am in life and loved ones.
Part of why I chose art as my life path was as a life-long commitment to being passionate every day and to share a glimpse of that with others. Collecting quotes is something I’ve done since high school as guideposts for what kind of person I want to be and reminders to stay on that path. Since I collect quotes anyway, I thought I’d share them here:
“Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources… Stating the thing broadly, the human individual lives far within his limits.”
– William James
(from The Genius in All of Us by David Shenk)
I believe that passion is what makes the difference in whether we achieve a greater portion of our full potential or not. I’ve only started reading this book, so we’ll see what David Shenk has to say on this matter. :)
Courtesy of The Daily Bunny
To kickstart 2012 on an artistic and personal level, I want to share this comment that touches on creative endeavors and vulnerability:
“If you don’t feel personally exposed when publishing the game, you did not make art.”
– Daniel Benmergui, an independent video game creator
Daniel Benmergui was responding specifically to the question of video games as art, but I think what he said applies just as much to all forms of art.
That exposure, putting myself and my thoughts out there for people to see, is always a bit terrifying for me. I’m constantly jealous of the people that can just display online or in person what I feel like are the squishy, inner guts of our emotional lives that should stay well within my body:
Learn how to strip wires, install power supplies and ground sockets in a day.
Talk about my feelings and how I find something hurtful or stressful.
“…. Must we really talk about such things?”
And yet, the artists and creators that share their inner thoughts publicly are the ones that have helped me the most in navigating my own life.
If I really pause and think about it, we expose ourselves whether we mean to or not. Just as it’s impossible for writers to *not* have a voice, that’s pretty much the same for any creative endeavor. If I’m a private person and I don’t feel comfortable revealing what I consider to be “my business” publicly or with friends, I have already revealed what I consider to be private or not. At the end of the day, it’s a scary experience for anyone to put themselves out there.
Even though for some people, it feels like they can splash their experiences and emotions everywhere as they process and work through their problems in what seems like a public forum like the Internet, what it really means is that at that moment they have a different definition of what feels safe or not to them. Even the vocal ones have their own experiences and feelings that would make them feel overly naked or exposed to share with others.
Whether I mean to or not, my art is colored by my life experiences. It can’t help being a reflection of my feelings at that time. When I go through more stressful, urgent periods in my life, my art and my writing change to more “dark & twisty” topics and moods. Sometimes, it gets overwhelming enough that I choose survival and silence over trying to express anything at all, via artwork or with friends. When I feel more optimistic and hopeful, I start sharing lots of photos of foods and bunnies.
2011 introduced a lot of challenges and growth in areas that I didn’t expect and couldn’t foresee, some were just super overwhelming where it truly felt like I just couldn’t continue. I pretty much stopped creating anything but the bare minimum and severely limited communicating my inner thoughts to most everyone. I just didn’t want to externalize the problems that were already overrunning everything else. 2011 also had insanely wonderful events like *our wedding* where our friends and family truly affirmed in every way through their support, late night help and on the day shenanigans how ridiculously lucky, blessed and loved we are.
Knock on wood, 2012 will have growth but maybe not as many growing pains as 2011. :) And I am already thinking of different projects that I’m eager to start on. Now it’s just a matter of really unpacking and getting my studio in order so that I don’t have to struggle to find things like paper and erasers.
I look forward to 2012, and I wish for everyone the very best 2012 they can make for themselves, too.
Jul 18, 20110
An old tribute to Edward Gorey:
“As an artist I’m a vile, parasitic sponge. I soak up anything I lay my eyes on and then try feebly to squeeze it back out of myself.”
(an awesome quote from a very thoughtful discussion about how influence and inspiration can play in an artist’s development — UNFINISHED COMICS: pseudo intellectual ruminations on cartooning – THIRD POST – cartooning after Chris Ware)
I couldn’t agree more (though I’m more a Mz Jobberts who wishes she was a Mz Tibbets instead).
Every once in a while, after I show someone my work, they’ll make an offhand comment that has me spiraling into a vortex of insecurity:
“Oh, it reminds me of… James Jean.”
“It feels so much like Where the Wild Things Are!”
“Oh! I can’t remember the name right now… but you know! Those old children’s books!”
“You can really feel the Asian influence.”
OH NO I HAVE NO UNIQUE VOICE AT ALL I SUCK.
The crazy thing is, they usually meant it as a compliment, to connect. The negativity all comes from my own insecurities of being “an unoriginal copycat hack” because of my perception that our society highly values “uniqueness” (which I fear I don’t have).
Some days, I can be more level-headed (sane) and realize that they just paid me a huge compliment… likening my nascent artwork to such greats as those. I need to cultivate that sanity.
After all, any artist that says he/she has no influences is just a liar. And every artist has had that moment — that niggling paranoia that whispers because you love art, and because you’ve seen so much art, what you have to create is nothing new, has no value or is somehow less meaningful, and/or a direct rip off someone else.
For me, my paranoia surfaces because I art crush so hard. Every once in a while, I’ll encounter an artist that makes me flutter inside. It becomes an obsession, really — I dive through the Great Depths of the Internet, download any or all images available, read all his/her bios and interviews, check out any available books at the library, Link+ books from connected libraries, tag and scan any images I like.
After that kind of immersion, that intense (one-sided) relationship, that artist’s eye is all I see for a while. It’s like how your friends, family, lovers and mentors influence who you are. And as with many other intense interactions, I may sound like that person a little more, use the same words, etc for a little while after being around them, but I’m still me.
As I grow into being an artist (and away from feeling like an unworthy art student – it’s the teens all over again), I hope to be more comfortable with acknowledging that people, life, the world have influenced me, some in more visible ways, and others in ways that I may be unaware of. I also hope that I will continue to process all these inputs and create something new to share with others.
There is something beautiful about how someone’s work and life can touch a stranger and strongly move them, sometimes even changing who they are. I hope one day, I can be an inspiring artist like that for someone else.
First of all, I ran across this great TED lecture by Sheena Iyengar on the Art of Choosing:
This is a great quote — “But from the Japanese perspective, it’s their duty to protect those who don’t know any better.” :) (Koreans are this way, too)
I especially like her discussion of the cultural assumptions we make about choice — that not everyone sees it as a positive thing even in America, let alone beyond its borders.
Second of all, Iyengar’s lecture really got me thinking about what the experience of choosing art was like as an Asian-American: