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Physics Leaving physics to become... an artist?

  1. Nov 27, 2017 #1
    My story is that I finished my theoretical physics PhD about two years ago and immediately got a postdoc position in another university. Towards the end of my PhD and certainly during my postdoc years I've felt more and more that physics is, after all, not for me. Probably because of this reason, my postdoc has been a rather unproductive one and probably I would even have difficulties finding another position with my current CV.

    Outside my physics "career", I have a hobby, which is 3D artistry, which I've been doing on and off for many years, but I have never taken it very seriously. Recently, as my motivation to do physics has gone down, I've also become more and more interested in traditional arts like photography and traditional painting, etc. Doing arts (3D or something else) feels at this point like something I would really like to do.

    I'm not asking if I should go for it or not; I know that it doesn't make much sense "on paper" and I know well that most artists are poor and starving and probably I could have a stabler and more lucrative career by switching to industry with my physics degree. However, I really don't like doing the technical stuff anymore; I don't know what has changed in my brain, because it wasn't always like this, but debugging a bunch of code, looking at equations, etc. feel very boring to me nowadays.

    Instead, I'm asking if anyone here has, by any chance, gone a similar path? That is, from physics to creative arts (whether it's music, cinema, photography or whatever). I would really like to hear from you. What kind of arts are you doing? Are you working as an independent artist or in a company? How does the reality of your new life compare to your expectations coming from academic physics? Did you find your physics background at all helpful in whatever you are doing? How did you get started initially when you left physics?
     
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  3. Nov 27, 2017 #2

    Dale

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    For me, I also had an artistic orientation (family full of painters and musicians, I painted). I recognized that artistic drive early on and the satisfaction of creativity. I chose engineering because of the creativity, and with my technical skills it was a good fit.

    For whatever it is worth, it sounds to me like engineering may be a natural fit for you. If you are like me, the creativity of a good design will be every bit as satisfying as the creativity of a good painting, although the beauty is a little more esoteric.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
  4. Nov 27, 2017 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    I couldn't read this without thinking "I left physics. The job prospects were too good."

    There are people who have done something like this. I know of one person who after his PhD and a stint as a postdoc (maybe even national lab staff) went off and got a PhD in English to become a poet. He now manages technical writers, for whatever that's worth.
     
  5. Nov 27, 2017 #4

    StatGuy2000

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    To the OP:

    First of all, you don't really state what area of research you were involved with (you only state you have a PhD in theoretical physics). Do you not see an opportunity to merge your education/skills in physics with your interest in 3D skills? I'm thinking of career options in areas like graphic or industrial design (both of which can be quite lucrative, depending on what portfolio you have developed), game dev/design, or animation?

    While I don't have much in any of these areas, my speculation would be that a knowledge of physics can be very helpful in breaking into the above fields.

    Another area (which is more closely related to my field of statistics) that you might want to think about is data visualization. I imagine that you (as someone trained as a physicist) would have to work with large data (even as a theorist). Having a strong sense of visuals may well lead to opportunities on thinking of new ways of presenting data.

    Just my 2 cents above.
     
  6. Nov 27, 2017 #5
    I don't know if the job prospects are really that good for someone who didn't specialize in something that is directly applicable in the industry (like semiconductors or large scale computing or something). I could probably get some programming or other technical job, but I'm almost sure I wouldn't care about this job very much and it would be only to pay the bills.

    This is the kind of story I was looking for :). I have also considered going to some kind of an art school, but I'm not sure if more schooling is what I want at this point; the 20 years I've done so far (including my PhD) feel like quite enough.
    I was more thinking training myself in a more disciplined way for a while until I am at least to close to the level of professional 3D artists and then first get into volunteer projects and then perhaps get some freelancer work.

    I indeed always enjoyed certain aspects of doing physics, like writing a piece of code that is both eloquent and performs as I expect it to. Seeing the results appear plotted on the screen give some sort of "artistic" pleasure.

    In any case, at this point I'm merely entertaining the possibility of going this way without any actual commitment made in any direction. One of the major problems is that I really don't know how much work it would take to become an actual professional in arts. In physics, it took about 8 years (from starting in the university to finishing my PhD) and that would be a bit too much.
     
  7. Nov 27, 2017 #6

    Grinkle

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    Your post asks about becoming an artist, and your description reads to me like you are considering training a talent that you have in order to create interesting things that other people pay you to create, after commissioning from you what they want you to create.

    If you enjoy programming but find implementing algorithms to crunch through specific physics equations to be boring, you may also find drawing sixty different cute Bassett Hound faces (for instance) to be boring if the only reason you are doing it is because its what your client wants.

    As I read your posts, you are potentially not considering a direction that will give you more creative freedom than you already enjoy as a programmer.
     
  8. Nov 27, 2017 #7
    Have you ever thought about the possibility of taking a major in design?
    It's a mix of technic and art.
     
  9. Nov 27, 2017 #8
    I once met a physicist who worked at Pixar. If you are willing to consider commercial art, rather than fine art, you should look into digital cinema.
     
  10. Nov 28, 2017 #9
    Maybe @Drekex wants to be an artist on his own, like artists of the past and not working in a company for a regular salary.
     
  11. Nov 28, 2017 #10

    jtbell

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  12. Nov 30, 2017 #11
    Ah, but many artists of the past either came from wealthy families, had wealthy benefactors ... or lived in poverty. The OP can do both for a while: commercial art to pay the bills, and fine art for personal fulfillment. If the fine art turns out to be sufficiently profitable, he can then drop the commercial art.
     
  13. Nov 30, 2017 #12

    StoneTemplePython

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    It sounds bad, but in some sense you get paid for doing a job, because you are doing something someone else wants you to do -- not because you want to do it.

    I liked @CrysPhys's suggestion of 3-D graphics in a commercial environment. Off the top of my head, this would mean things like Cinema with Pixar on one hand, and things like 3D graphics in video games on the other hand. Note: there is an emerging 3rd pillar called "virtual reality" that could be quite interesting as well.
     
  14. Nov 30, 2017 #13

    Nidum

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    Become a tutor and applications consultant for one of the major graphics software suppliers . Get very well paid , optionally travel extensively , have free unlimited access to top class graphics software and lots of opportunity to pursue personal creative interests .
     
  15. Nov 30, 2017 #14

    symbolipoint

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    How is your musical skill and knowledge? No telling how far this would take you, if you're good at something in it.
     
  16. Dec 1, 2017 #15

    StatGuy2000

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    Interesting to note that the OP has not responded at all to any of the subsequent threads since Monday.
     
  17. Dec 1, 2017 #16
    Being a physicist has the highest prestige in our society. I heard heard of stories whereas people left physics to be an artist or teach high-school algebra. You will not be the first person to do this or the last.
     
  18. Dec 2, 2017 #17

    Vanadium 50

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    I think you've been watching one too many GE commercials.
     
  19. Dec 3, 2017 #18
    What the? Is this some kind of parody?
     
  20. Dec 3, 2017 #19

    Vanadium 50

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    No, that's a real GE commercial.
     
  21. Dec 5, 2017 #20
    I went from physics to 2d commercial art (went to art school). It's hard, you need to spend few years but job prospects are still better than in theoretical physics. In 3d it should be even easier especially with hard-surface or archi vis. It's hard to say how many years you need to spend since you have some skills already. You should show your work to 3d professionals and ask them for portfolio review and guidance. Maybe you only need 1-2 year professional training like gnomon school.

    Tbh you are good. I barely managed to finish my BSc - I was that sick with physics and technical stuff and yet you have managed to do post doc. How come?
     
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