OCT 2013

EyeWorld is the official news magazine of the American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.

Issue link: https://digital.eyeworld.org/i/194331

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Page 129 of 134

October 2013 EW IN OTHER NEWS 127 Drawing on success by Maxine Lipner EyeWorld Senior Contributing Writer Dr. Rootman explores life's full palette I t was something well known to all of his patients. Renowned ophthalmologist Jack Rootman, MD, professor of ophthalmology and pathology, University of British Columbia, and visiting professor, University of California, Los Angeles, had another passion—art. His paintings hung on his office walls, and on occasion he was known to send his patients invitations to his exhibitions. "I was interested in art even as a child," Dr. Rootman said. "But I grew up in a large immigrant family so there wasn't much opportunity to do art when I was younger." The natural direction appeared to be to choose a profession. Fortunately, he also found he was drawn to medicine and chose this very early in life. He even managed to incorporate his artistic instincts into his studies. The budding ophthalmologist used his artistic skills to help master medical material. "I found that I drew well, and instead of having to write notes I could sketch everything in anatomy and histology," he said. In the early 1980s when Dr. Rootman wrote his first book on the diseases of the orbit, he also brought his artistic talents to bear. "I got involved with medical illustrators, one of whom has become a lifelong friend, with whom I've published four out of five of my surgical and nonsurgical books," Dr. Rootman said. "My involvement was helping in the conceptual design of the images and later on also using my art to interpret ideas for surgery for him." Artistic turn It wasn't until he was sidelined by a back injury at age 40, however, that Dr. Rootman had the opportunity to really explore his artistic side. While bedridden, his wife suggested he make good use of the time. "I had fiddled a bit with art, and my wife got me some paints and said, 'Why don't you paint while you're recovering from this injury?'" he recalled, adding, "I really got hooked on it." Primarily he explored drawing and using watercolors for the first Daniel, an oil painting year or so on his own. Then he began attending retreats taught by master artists. "I did a series of those, and I had a lot of wonderful teachers who were quite advanced because those courses mostly attract very good amateurs or professional artists," he said. Ironically, an artistic turning point came in 1987 when Dr. Rootman entered a contest to have a painting of his appear on the cover of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. "One of my pieces was chosen," he said. "A gallerist saw that piece and invited me to consider doing a show." From there he joined the Canadian Federation of Artists, composed of a mixture of professionals and amateurs in the field. "For many years I showed in their exhibitions and over time had a number of group shows and some individual exhibitions," Dr. Rootman said. He also started to take night courses at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Meditation and water, a pastel painting By 1995 Dr. Rootman took a one-year leave of absence from his department chairmanship and went to New York City to develop his skill further. He was not, however, interested in earning an art-related degree. "I wanted to study with a particular artist, so I studied at the Art Students League, the New York Academy of Figurative Art, and the National Academy of Design," he said. Here his work was affected by Harvey Dinnerstein, an artist with a humanistic viewpoint, who Dr. Rootman views as "a giant as a teacher and a practitioner of art." He also took an interpretive figurative painting course with San Francisco artist David Tomb. "He would set up a fairly complex scene, and we would paint it in three hours from beginning to end," Dr. Rootman said. "That was a particularly liberating experience for me because I found that when I wasn't fussing, which obviously a microsurgeon would tend to do, I was able to let go and it still came out making the kind of statement that I wanted to make." A third mentor who stood out during this period was Dan Gheno, who taught at the National Academy of Design. "His particular approach was more about depicting moments of psychological perception," Dr. Rootman said. "I think that Dinnerstein also did that quite well in a more classical way." He continued: "When I came back from my New York experience I continued on page 128

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