I am honored and delighted to be contributing to Arts in Medicine this month with a personal perspective on how the arts have always been a vital part of my life from my student days and throughout my surgical career. My love for the arts began at a very young age, whether it was painting, the theatre, poetry, literature; indeed any activity that was inspired by the creative process. We all have hidden creative energy within us that so often remains untapped. We just need to find some time in our busy schedules to release it and be rewarded by the often-unexpected results. The following is an “artist’s statement” that I wrote for an exhibition of my paintings in 1987, which touches on this unseen energy that I believe resides within us all:
“After more than 25 years of painting, it has only been during the past 5 years, under the guidance of such fine artists and teachers as Bettina Lewis, Ken Wallace and Gordon Smith that my images have developed. I have become less conscious of the finished product but more immersed in the process by which that final image is achieved. I have come to recognize that it is the act of painting that holds the key, and it is this act that must be experienced by both artist and viewer alike. It represents the transmission of an inner energy onto the canvas, where it remains sustained in its own space. My images, whether abstract or figurative, undergo the same process of development; colours build upon colours, producing unexpected visual effects, textures and shapes within shapes. As the scale of these paintings has increased so has the breadth and length of the brushstrokes. The vigorous sweeps of colour allow the whole body to express itself. The images build rapidly, accelerating towards their completion. After years of methodically and meticulously applying colour, line, and reproducing reality, this experience has permitted the development of a personal image, which has been liberated from restraint, and found itself in the freedom of expressionism.”
Whatever your artistic aspirations, find some time, whenever possible and however brief the moment, to allow your own creative energies to be realized and in whatever your chosen means of expression may be. Take a moment to write a poem, sketch a small still life, play some Mozart, sing Puccini (or the Beatles) in the shower, take your camera and walk the seawall, anything, to remind yourself that the whole of you, mind and body, needs to be nurtured. Hopefully you will find the stresses of everyday life becoming more manageable as they begin to be seen in the context of their being just one part of the journey that each and everyone of us is on. With my warmest good wishes to all of you and wishing you every success in your own journeys that lie ahead.
Andrew Seal is a retired general surgeon and an Associate Professor Emeritus in the Department of Surgery at UBC. He was the Faculty of Medicine’s first Associate Dean of Student Affairs from 1994 to 1999 and founder of the Spring Gala in 1995. Andrew has painted for as long as he can remember and attended art school in England and also The Emily Carr College of Art. Since his retirement he continues to paint most days and you can see many of his paintings on his blog thechangingpalette.com.