I am both. This has both helped and hindered me throughout my life. Each interest has improved my ability to do the other. But doing both has deprived me of a sole focus. And not everyone accepts the possibility that I could be serious about the two.
In junior high school, I was given “interest” tests. Something like the Strong Interest Inventory. These tests asked a couple of hundred questions about my preferences for many different activities, like “Would you rather bake a cake or disect a frog?” or “Which would you choose between drawing a picture and setting up a lemonade stand?” My results were always consistent. I had two peak interests, Art and Math. My school counselors would then consult their guidebook and tell me, “Architecture. That’s it. Architecture is the only profession listed for people with an interest in both Art and Math.” That was – interesting, I thought.
I did not become an architect. I did make scale models of houses and buildings that I lived in, for no other reason than I liked to. But instead of architecture, I began painting, drawing, and sculpting and entering contests, doing shows, and trying to sell and market my art. As for math, I didn’t give that up either. I continued to study math, both in school and on my own. My studies took me to the “Foundation of Mathematics” and I spent a lot of time studying symbolic logic.
A few of my paying art customers, one in particular, a young lawyer who commissioned paintings to give to his wife, and paid me in one-hundred dollar bills, expressed concerns over my interest in mathematics. He wanted the paintings he purchased from me to increase in value and he worried that I would suddenly stop and become an engineer. A few years later, I did take a job that involved programming computers and he was very disappointed. “You became an engineer!” he scolded me. Apparently, I was not the first of the artists he had discovered who dropped the profession of art and became engineers – ruining the value of his investments in his eyes.
I did not give up art. But there have been times when I spent so many hours programming computers that I did very little painting or sculpture. And my drawings almost all related to my computer problems. Engineers and software development managers are understanding of artists among them. Many computer programmers in particular are involved in art, music, or other creative activity. But the pace of software development is very fast and accelerating. If you don’t spend your time studying the latest developments, you can quickly fall behind. So it’s hard to stay on the leading edge of software and pursue art on the side at the same time.
Still I can’t quit either one. And I don’t plan to. I am looking for ways to mix and combine them. And unlike the recommendations of the Interest Inventory tests, I think there are many, many ways it can be done. I’m looking for the right one.