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From Fine Arts to High Tech with Juliet Brown

Sam Jarman 👨🏼‍💻
Software engineer (iOS/JS/Anything). Likes: blogging, running, improvising, public speaking, positivity, helping newbies and great banter!
Originally published at ・6 min read

This is a article from my "Dev Chats" series where I speak to an awesome developer or techie every week or so. You can read more here. Let me know in the comments if you find these useful to you!

Juliet Brown. BFA then EDA.

Juliet Brown. BFA then EDA.

Introduce yourself! Who are you? Where do you work?

I’m Juliet, I am an artist and a web developer, who is interested in the Intersection between art and technology and I work at SilverStripe.

Who or what got you into programming?

I had just finished university(Fine Arts degree 2014) in Auckland and I was speaking to my friend who worked at Enspiral Dev Academy at the time. He told me about the course and he thought I would be great at it. So it made me curious(I had never looked at code before).

I went into EDA and learnt all about what they were doing there ect and thought it sounded awesome! I then applied for the diversity scholarship and before I knew it, I was organising how I was going to be living in Wellington to study at EDA. It seemed like the next perfect step for me. Where I could combine my creativity and critical thinking with a practical, fun, interesting skill that challenged me. Programming has endless learning which I enjoy. How there are many ways to build a feature/site/project.

With a background in Fine Arts, how do you feel these skills transfer to tech?

For me, programmers are artists. It is creative. I look at technology/computers as a canvas. Code as raw material. For me it’s just another medium for building, solving problems. There are three main parallels for me between art and technology. Which is subject matter, process, and medium.

I enjoy challenging how we perceive art and the 'artist’ and pushing the boundaries of what art is and can do.

Painting and drawing come with such a historical background. By bringing the old medium into technology - a new medium, a tool that we as people are involved with day to day excites me, it brings new possibilities to the technology space .

How did you find a bootcamp education to the university style education?

I found it very different, but good different. They had a good contrast. University is more theory, traditional, longer, slower and in my degree in my final honours year it was more about constructing your own art practice and expectations. A lot of self learning and organising at both though which I like, it’s good to have not to many boundaries sometimes. So then you are open to new learnings/discoveries. Which I think is an important part of the creative/problem solving process.

I found the bootcamp practical, fast, and I learnt a lot for such a small space of time. It had a large focus on people and how to work as a team. Which was good preparation for moving into the IT industry.

What has surprised you the most about the IT sector so far?

How many things you can do in technology being a developer. At times I have felt it overwhelming. But I just got to discipline myself and stop sometimes and have a break. Accept I don’t know everything and that’s fine. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised so much now. But it’s great how many different directions you can go in and your always learning and growing as a person and how important it is to be able to communicate and being able to see things from more than one perspective. It’s more about collaboration and learning and supporting your peers/team around you.

What has been your toughest lesson to learn in your software career so far?

To know that coming from a different background isn’t a negative thing - feeling like an imposter. I found it quite challenging at first as people often asked me.

‘You come from a Fine Arts background how could you code?’ And felt there was a stereotype attached to me like the myth of an artist is a right brain thinker (I don’t believe you are just right brained or left) It’s about being passionate about what you want to do and wanting learn and challenge yourself.

Often I had to tell people I want to program than do the design ‘pretty’ tasks. Design and art are quite different!

But its seems the notion of a traditional developer has/is changing. Which I am always searching for great people to be inspired by. Who are also challenging what you can do with technology, which helps the feeling of an imposter.

Where/how do you see art and tech intersecting in interesting ways?

There are a few main parallels for me.There are so many awesome resources out there. The internet, books, conferences, and people ect.

Something I have got into over the last year is svgs. I taught myself how to make them on adobe illustrator and then animate them with javascript/css. Lots of great animating libraries out there.  My next project is to look into Three.js and blender(3D modelling) more in depth.

I want to transfer the worlds I make on paper/canvas into an animated digital world. Breathing life into things also really interests me! :)

Have you got any hobbies outside of your job? Do you think they help your tech career in any way?

Yes, I’m quite an active person/relaxer and like travelling/outdoors. I go to the gym about four times a week. The gym keeps me focussed with all the things I am doing. It’s good for my mind.

I am always making.. drawing/ painting or collaging as well as coding its good for me to be creative in more than one way.

Approaching different problems with a different mediums/solutions. Each medium asks for different challenges and ways of looking at things. I had an exhibition last year showing my paintings and drawings with 12 gallery which a goal is to show a digital work in the future.

I believe drawing/painting helps vision/how you look at the world around you. You start to look at things in detail/dissecting and asking yourself questions on how/why you would form what you want to draw etc. It gives spatial awareness which I think definitely helps in technology. Looking at things more deeper with detail than just at surface level.

I am getting into technology conferences and speaking. Im off to Melbourne in March to speak at Decompress conf about the ‘Intersection of Art and Technology’ which is a good way for me to share my background/journey into the IT sector and what I have done/doing and hope to inspire others from diverse backgrounds and challenge the idea of a traditional developer.

What books/resources would you recommend?

Sarah Drasner is awesome. She recently wrote a book called  ‘SVG Animations’. She also speaks at a lot of conferences. She was/is an artist and studied Fine Arts too!

I joined a Creative Coding club last year on the internet,  which does monthly themes/challenges which is alway interesting to see people across the world code up creative solutions. Nat Cooper started it who is on twitter is .

Zach Lieberman does some interesting work. He also came from a Fine Arts background and was into drawing/researching before he got into technology and was part of opening a school for poetic computation in New York called SFPC  Which is an artist run school that explores the intersections of code, design, hardware and theory. There seems to be a lot more people pushing creative coding/art and code. Which is awesome!

Finally, make your shoutout! What would you like the readers to go have a look at?

All of the above. There are so many ideas/resources to find on the internet. I get lost in it quite often. But that’s always half the fun also. That you never know what the next interesting thing to discover.

If your wanting to see more of my work you can check it out on instagram here.

Codepen is really useful as well , A lot of great front end javascript/css experiments on there and blog posts.

This is also really cool website with lots of ideas if you haven’t seen heard of it before:

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