The Two-Career Artist- Day 97

[Today’s featured artwork for Day 97 of the 365 Days Project is by BiJian Fan.]

Origami musical notes by BiJian Fan
“Spatial Music” by BiJian Fan. Photo courtesy ©BiJian Fan.

When the passion to create arrives in the middle of a profitable career.

#97 – The decision to maintain an “alternate career” for any Artist is a personal one. Managing two careers takes great discipline as well as an ability to strike a balance between the “daytime job” and night-time creativity.

Many artists juggle two careers: One provides the security of a steady paycheck which allows artistic experimentation without focusing on revenue. Sometimes the “day job” enhances the creative work. Other times it can leave little time to create at the end of the day or on weekends.

BiJian Fan is a biotech engineer by day and an artist by night. Fan was born in Beijing, China and earned BS and MS degrees in mathematics as well as a PhD in mechanical engineering. I was intrigued, not only by his ability to manage two full-time careers, but how he seemed to be able to walk between two worlds, the left-sided world of an engineer and the right-side world of an artist.

“I had been working in science and engineering until my early 40’s when I accidentally found my passion in art,” said the artist. As a child, Fan learned origami, the art of paper folding and cutting, from his grandmother in China. “Since my interdisciplinary background had cultivated an appreciation for creativity in all disciplines,” he said, “art was a natural extension.”

BiJian Fan had a personal reason that drew him to the arts after emigrating to the U.S. “I gravitated towards visual art because of my struggle with language, culture, and my minority status as an immigrant. Visual art transcends culture barriers and allows me to express freely. Through art, I regained my voice.”

Today, Fan carries on the tradition taught by his grandmother by creating full-size, cutting-edge paper sculptures and installations, expanding his media to include metal, polymer, wood and other materials.

Origami of a white swan by BiJian Fan.
“Feather Her Nest” by BiJian Fan. Photo courtesy ©BiJian Fan.

“Though I always separate my day job from night creation to stay focused,” he explained. “I consciously connect my left and right brain in my creative process. I have gradually found their complementary connection and truly enjoyed their balance. In fact, my multi-disciplined background propelled my art and has been instrumental in generating public interest in my work.”

Bijian Fan continues to expand his knowledge in material science and advance his spatial and temporal sense in sculpting, transforming 2-D materials into 3-D kinetic sculptures that interact with the surrounding environment, energizing the space, representing an evolution in space and time.

Origami of a water serpent by BiJian Fan
“Sea Dragon King” by BiJian Fan. Photo courtesy ©BiJian Fan.

“My creation of art balances work and life; it makes me a happier and better person,” said Fan. “I’d create full-time someday but that would not be the only reason to quit my day job.”

I admire BiJian Fan, not only for his work as an artist, but for his ability to successfully work in seemingly opposite worlds by finding that delicate balance between left-brain logic and right-brain passion and creativity and recognizing the existence and necessity for both in each of his careers.

2022 update: Since this interview, BiJian Fan developed OMG (Origami Math Genius), an inquiry-based curriculum that integrates origami art and math for K-12 education. “OMG cultivates artistry and imagination through creative origami play. Learning math through origami art has a significant effect on spatial visualization, geometric reasoning and achievement.” OMG has also been adopted in China for STEAM (STEM+Art) education.

Origami abstract sculpture by BiJian Fan
“Spirit” by BiJian Fan. Photo courtesy ©BiJian Fan.

BiJian Fan’s artwork can be viewed at: BiJian Fan

Description of the images included in this post:
Spatial Music
BiJian Fan, California (China)
Polymer kinetic sculpture

Feather Her Nest
BiJian Fan, California (China)
Polymer sculpture

Sea Dragon King
BiJian Fan, California (China)
Synthetic paper sculpture

BiJian Fan, California (China)
Polymer kinetic sculpture

The 365 Days Project

In 2012, Serena Kovalosky committed to writing an article a day for 365 days as an exploration into the lives of artists and the value of creative thinking in our society.

Experience the full evolution of the project! Click below to read the entire collection of articles.

Click to view The 365 Days Project

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