Interview with an Artist: ‘I took a big leap without checking if I had a parachute’

Chairman Kato is an artist and musician, but until just last year he worked as an A&E doctor. Here we find out how he made such a leap.

Why did you originally become a doctor, if your real passion was art?

I was a bit of an ‘all rounder’ at school and had interests in lots of things. Growing up I didn’t really have any exposure to positive career examples of people in the arts either. So I ended up doing both from the beginning- even at medical school I was constantly DJing and dabbling with music production at the same time, as well as coming down to London to familiarise myself with contemporary art.

I’ve taken a pretty convoluted path to get to where I am now, but I wouldn’t swap it. I wouldn’t go back and not be a doctor. There were many things about it that I enjoyed and let’s face it, being on the sharp end teaches you a lot about life and yourself. Eventually it came to the point where being a doctor was less and less authentically ‘me’ and my passion for art and music was overtaking everything else.


Interview with an Artist: ‘I took a big leap without checking if I had a parachute’

How did you come to the conclusion to leave medicine and try art full time?

To be honest, the decision to leave wasn’t calculated or planned. It got to the point where one day I snapped and left, pretty much in one go. I had known deep down I had to make a choice one way or another but was in a lot of denial about it until the strain of not doing what I really wanted to do simply became too much.

I think the turmoil it was causing me hit critical mass.

What was the hardest thing about that decision?

The decision was actually very easy, it was the aftermath that was challenging. I had taken a big leap without checking if I had a parachute and that made me doubt myself a lot for a while- doubt whether my decision was ‘realistic’, doubt whether I could make it work.

Every few months I was convinced I was going to have to go back to medicine. I hung in there though and now I’m firmly in the groove of life as an artist and have zero intention of going back. I could only have gained that clarity by working through my uncertainty.


Interview with an Artist: ‘I took a big leap without checking if I had a parachute’

What were the biggest challenges to doing art full time?

The biggest challenge was facing the unknown. I learnt a lot about that. I’d gone from being in a career that I no longer wanted but offered security to having the life that I wanted but having to face the uncertainty of those early days. That was very, very difficult.

I read about the nature of fear, about the human propensity to project into the future and the negative beliefs that we all harbour about ourselves and the world without even realising it. Things got very tight for a while and it felt like my life was falling apart. Now that I’ve come through that I’ve developed a much more relaxed attitude about the unknown. That has been a huge gift.

As a result, when it comes to finding a studio, making money and ideas, I mostly just trust myself and trust life. I simply trust that whenever I need an idea or something practical that I will find the resources and inspiration. By not stressing myself unnecessarily I can focus my energy on finding solutions to things instead of running around with my hair on fire.

What do you enjoy most about your new life?

Where to start? Being my own boss gives me the freedom to work on things that captivate me. I get to come up with ideas and put them into practice, constantly developing myself and my process. I get to share the results with the public and my friends. I have the freedom to piss off for a walk whenever I want.

I’m surrounded by people who enthrall and support me all the time – a daily miracle that I make sure I celebrate and give thanks for as much as possible. The great thing is that once opportunities start to come your way, they keep building. One thing leads to another and there are all these surprises. Being an artist leads me to have such varied experiences all over the place and in my opinion it doesn’t get much better than that.


Interview with an Artist: ‘I took a big leap without checking if I had a parachute’

What advice would you give to people who want to make the transition you did?

You would have to be insane to make the transition like I did. Either insane or…, just insane. But if you really want to take a leap, whatever that means for you, ask yourself what it means to you, this dream of yours. Really ask yourself. Ask yourself how much you are prepared to let go of and what you are prepared to do. If you are still resolute about your decision then truly go for it, truly find your potential.

And bear in mind that this is about growth; it’s not about your job. Be prepared to work on yourself like never before. Growth involves change and it can get pretty messy. Only you can decide if it’s worth it. I wouldn’t swap where I am for anything but I appreciate not everybody has the appetite to confront themselves and their fears.


Photo credit: lead image, Aya Arden; all others, Chairman Kato

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