I have been a hobbyist painter since childhood. Over the years, the practice has brought me a sense of stillness, has given me space to retreat and think and express uninhibited.
I am more interested in portraiture than any other subject, though I have tried my hand at figures, landscape, and still life.
Understanding and replicating elements of the face–shadow and highlight, contour, gaze–in an effort to convey a sense of the subject is an interesting puzzle for me.
The impasto technique, which employs broad brushstrokes and piles of paint that protrude slightly off the canvas, has become my preferred mode.
The additional dimension of shadow created by slopes and swirls of paint makes for a more complex composition that vaguely approaches sculpture.
I also use mixed media–ink and cardboard, magazine paper, trash–to challenge my own notions of belonging and balance, and to give new life to refuse, like single-use paper and plastic products.
There are two primary ways I find this practice relevant to my pursuits in dentistry:
First, the fine handwork involved in portraiture demonstrates both manual dexterity and the skilled eye required for creating beautiful and functional restorations.
Second, medical professionals can benefit immensely from practices in the arts. Innovative approaches to problem solving are employed continually in creative compositions of all kinds. The integration of sciences and arts is a powerful means of understanding oneself and one’s patients holistically.
Further, the space for free and focused thinking generated in the practice of the arts prepares and continually conditions one’s mind to stop and go, or to rest and then work, cyclically.
Practicing art, in this way, can be an essential tool and outlet for healthcare providers.
I have enjoyed witnessing my own growth and development as a creator over the years. I still have some of my finger paintings from preschool, sketchbooks with my elementary animations and accompanying narratives.
I’m now creating portraits that speak to my own style, and convey emotions and ideas in a manner of which I am quite proud and sometimes surprised.
I’m still learning, and I’m sure I always will be.
I see my career in dentistry progressing in a similar fashion:
I told my family I wanted to be a dentist when I was a child; they jokingly called me “Hermey,” the misfit elf from the 1960s Christmas claymation special.
My academic and professional paths then took a series of beautiful and necessary turns before thrusting me back to this early interest.
I did some research on post-baccalaureate pre-health programs; watched videos of dental procedures; read blogs and articles; drafted dream boards and flow charts sent out applications and made plans.
I began creating.
I anticipate replicating the same sense of nostalgia I have now for my high-school era paintings and poems and essays once I am in practice.
Five, ten, twenty years into my career, do I remember the scent of cavicide wipes we used at Bucks Mont Orthodontics and recall my exciting first weeks learning to isolate and suction and change color ties?
Will charts of primary and permanent tooth numbers remind me of the hopeful summer I spent studying and memorizing any information I could find in preparation of an opportunity yet unrealized?
I am so proud of the work that I have accomplished in my life–artistically, professionally, among my friends and family, for the world, for myself. I am always excited to see where I will venture, how deep, how fully, and to what end.
I am equal parts planning and exploration: I move forward, linearly; I circle myself. This measured combination of focus and openness has served me well, and continues to light my way through this life.
I have given away almost everything I’ve painted in the last ten years. Once in a while I’ll get a message from a friend, maybe after they’ve moved, showing me where my painting hangs in their home.
It is a joy to create, to give, to forget, and to be reminded.