Visit with Jim – Career Transformations

As a successful executive physician and artistic photographer, I believe that many people in today’s fast-paced and dynamic world are seeking ways to reinvent themselves.  We are often pursuing a career path aligned to and within our existing professional track. This also applies to physicians and scientists who may be interested in transitioning to the world of art. Although it may seem a misaligned and unconventional direction, it can be a fulfilling and transformative experience. So let’s explore what this journey from medicine or science to art may look like and consider the challenges and opportunities that may arise along the way.

As you consider this direction, there are exercises to consider to help you measure and define your risk entering this world.  One exercise would be a thought experiment: Are you as committed to this direction as you were when you completed 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 3-5 years of residency only then to launch your independent career.  That is well over a decade of committed time learning your craft.  A second thought exercise to work through would be are you committed to this path to do good or make money.  This direction is heavily tilted towards those with a passion to do good, then those who pursue an income.   Know your motivations and level of commitment. I can help you understand them and work through the pros and cons of your potential decision. Simply request an appointment for some time via email.

Before embarking on this journey to change career tracks, it is crucial to identify what your passion and skill are and how you will create intriguing and consumable brand-differentiated art.  This has been quite an interesting path to pursue for me.  It has helped me learn more about my passion and empowered me to have a tenacious laser focused intensity.  This core understanding will help you create communities that recognize and appreciate your creative works. Nurturing potential, manifesting a vision, and executing on that brand are three key steps that serve as the driving force for a career shift. 

Building a portfolio is also vital for an artist to understand their brand, audience, and why their ability to create art is a sustainable career trajectory.  This can be applied to other career shifts, but my focus and intention would be to explain mine and help others navigate these waters. My high level guidance to share would be that you are specific and highly consistent in the genre you create.


“The principles of true art are not to portray, but to invoke.” – J. Kosinski

As a successful fine art photographer who has been through this journey, I would be glad to help physicians and scientists discover their passion and skills in the arts. Acquiring and refining artistic skills is an important next step.  This can be achieved through classes or workshops, pursuing a degree in the arts, or seeking mentorship.  In my estimation, it is many fold more important to spend time on yourself trying, failing, succeeding, refining and redefining your craft. Stereotypes that we lack creativity may challenge physicians and scientists entering the art world. Being skilled and knowledgeable and then breaking this paradigm can be an important brand differentiator.  Our unique perspectives and insights from our professional fields often provide a fresh and distinctive viewpoint in the art world. Collaboration across disciplines can mean across the spectrum of art and across the range of professional skills. This can lead to exciting opportunities such as medical illustrations, science-inspired art installations, or public engagement initiatives that promote scientific literacy through art.

Many of the skills that are required in medicine or science, such as attention to detail, patience, and problem-solving, can also be applied to the arts. Physicians and scientists also have a unique perspective that can bring fresh insights to the art world. By embracing this perspective and developing our artistic skills, we can forge a rewarding career path in the arts.

 Another challenge to consider is that we may face financial uncertainty. The initial investment in time and money to acquire skills, resources and industry knowledge is important.  The income generated from a poorly planned endeavor into creating art may not be as predictable or stable as that from their original professions. Therefore, we must be prepared to mitigate and manage these financial uncertainties and develop a sustainable plan to support our artistic transition.  This can be accomplished through long term planning, patience, and deliberate investments to learn and balance risk and reward. 

“Every artist was first an amateur”.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many physicians and scientists have successfully made the transition to the art world. These individuals serve as inspiration and demonstrate that the journey, though challenging, is not only possible but also rewarding. In an earlier post, I covered Santiago Ramón y Cajal, a renowned Spanish neuroscientist, who was also a skilled artist. His differentiated skill was an ability to create detailed and intricate drawings of neurons and neural structures that not only advanced the understanding of the nervous system but also demonstrated the power of merging art and science. Dr. Frank Netter was a gifted medical illustrator and practicing physician before dedicating his life to medical art. His anatomical illustrations are still broadly and almost universally used in medical education today.

As I round out this post, consider this next artist, Dr. Cliff Lee, a ceramic artist and neurosurgical physician.  He comes to me via Craft in America, and is a model of the path for my future. Highly skilled, brand differentiated, focused, and well balanced in life and artistic pursuits.  Dr. Lee is a prime example of a physician who has successfully transitioned into the world of art.  His passion for ceramics eventually led him to shift his focus to the art world.  His works are in the Smithsonian, galleries around the world and he is a renowned ceramic artist.  He discovered his love for ceramics while attending a pottery class with his wife. The tactile and creative nature of working with clay ignited a passion that he continued to nurture alongside his medical career.


“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” Salvador Dali

Over time, he honed his skills in pottery and developed a unique style characterized by intricate and precise craftsmanship.   As his reputation in the ceramics world grew, he faced the challenge of balancing his artistic pursuits with his responsibilities as a surgeon. Ultimately, he made the decision to scale back his medical practice and focus on his art. This transition allowed him to dedicate more time and energy to his craft, refining his skills and becoming a celebrated ceramic artist.  

Dr. Lee’s journey from medicine to ceramics also highlights the importance of slowing down and embracing mindfulness. The practice of ceramics requires patience, focus, and a deep connection with the medium, allowing the artist to cultivate a more mindful approach to life. This mindfulness has not only enhanced his art but has also provided him with a sense of balance and fulfillment beyond his medical career.

For my particular pathway, it seems I am walking in his footsteps.  My passion and pursuit are within the nature of light.   The very specific behavior of light as it bends through and reflects off of Oil, Inks, Glass and Air.  The ability to capture this behavior up close with a camera, define a plane of focus or blur, and print a large format photograph brings this all to life for me. It is this creative direction that will manifest in the years to come.  I have plenty to learn, but remain confident that I have put in place the necessary components to transition in the future, as have many of these physicians – scientists – artists.  I would enjoy helping you explore your pathway and develop your future. Simply ask and I can make myself available. 

These stories should serve as an inspiring example of how we can successfully transition into the world of art. By discovering our passion, acquiring the necessary skills, and embracing the challenges and opportunities that arise, we can forge a new path that combines our expertise in medicine or science with our artistic talents. The result is a rich and rewarding career that broadens the horizons of both the scientific and artistic communities, and ultimately leads to personal growth, self-awareness, and a more mindful approach to life.


Join me in a fireside chat via Zoom in the evening to discuss any aspect of my artwork.  To qualify, and join a video conversation send your contact information and let me know what you would want to talk about. The selected participants will receive a 25% discount on any of my unlimited edition pieces of art.  I will personally sign the piece at printing.  Even more, the gallery is offering this purchase risk free for you. Free shipping, Free return, and no questions asked if you are unhappy with the art work.  You can keep the print for 30 days to enjoy the selection in your home or office. This risk free offer does not apply to metal, acrylic and other specialized media prints. Cheers, Jim

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