Updated: May 19
An unexpected journey to find the artist within myself.
“My journey has been a road with unexpected paths and hurdles. This adventure has been filled with excitement as well as challenges, but each experience has created for unique opportunities worth seizing. My interests and hobbies have foundations built in unexpected places and these lend to quite a diverse blend of qualities and skill sets that make me the artist I am today.
Born and raised in South Africa with roots that go as far back as the 1800s, my journey took me up a path to the United States at the age of 17. Life was an adjustment coming from a divorced family and entering a new schooling system all while needing to quickly decide on a career path that would soon be upon me in as little as 2 years. With a strong interest in wanting to help and serve others I pursued a premedical degree at a small liberal arts college of less than 900 students followed by a year off where I returned to South Africa to volunteer at an HIV orphanage for 4.5 months with my future American husband-to-be. During our time of serving, we received the wonderful news that we were both accepted into a medical school in Michigan and our medical career took off from there.
The following 7 years were very trying and despite my excellent academics I failed on several occasions to perform well on the standardized board exams. I was told by academic staff that applying to a medical residency program to continue my career as a doctor was futile and would not be met with invitations for interviews. At this lowest point in my life I cried, I doubted myself and nearly gave up on all that I worked so very hard to become (not to mention all the debt I had accumulated to put myself through school at that point). How could I turn away from this now? Could I even logistically turn around and travel down a different path?
I see now that back then my journey was one of self discovery, of self love, of forgiveness and believing in myself and the things I personally aspired to do. I pushed on. I applied to programs and every single one not only granted me interviews but highly sought to recruit me. I was accepted into my first choice program and my compassion for people and wanting to genuinely help was recognized as a quality more valuable than the scores by which the system measured us by. It is this quality that has heavily influenced the way I practice as a Family Physician in Ohio.
Being a doctor is an art in itself. I study my patient and draw on details they share with me to imagine the form of what afflicts them and creatively design a treatment approach for helping them to recover. It is almost a dance - partnering with my patients and finding the rhythm to which their health reverberates. Each encounter is different and unique. I do find that my creativity has a home here.
I have always loved art. I wanted to do art classes in school but the opportunities were scarce and my classes were scientifically focused for my healthcare career. One day, however, the state of the world’s health brought about a new path on my journey that birthed a more tangible expression of my artistic side. With COVID having struck in the early part of 2020, we were not seeing patients directly in the office yet I still had to report to work daily as an essential worker. Until telemedicine encounters surfaced 2 weeks later, I found myself painting 4 of Iris Scott’s finger paintings from her weekend workshop book at my office desk. With gloves on and my office smelling like paint, 4 vibrant paintings rested on easels to dry for the next few weeks. A spark was lit and my creative flame grew brighter. I challenged myself and made my own original oil finger painting of a red-eyed tree frog and now my collection includes brightly colored elephants, leopards, foxes, sea life and landscapes, some as large as 36x48 inches in size. The texture and depth that I capture with this finger painting technique helps me to portray the beauty I have seen in both of my worlds (South Africa and the US). The paintings invite the viewer to not only appreciate the details and color of the subjects but calls them to want to physically touch the heavily textured surface and allow the art to move within them. As a hobby while still working full time as a doctor and balancing 3 wonderful children, I steal away any time that I can to keep painting simply for the love of using my fingers to smear heavy dabs of paint around, leaving impressions of myself in each piece.
2.5 years into my self-taught painting career with a brief introduction by Iris, I found myself struggling heavily with post-partum depression and physician burnout. I took 10 weeks of medical leave away from work to participate in an intensive therapy program that gave me the time I desperately needed to become a “more sustainable version of myself” which included focusing on finding self-love, forgiveness, and an allowance to pursue things that make me happy. It is during this unexpected darker path that I “wintered” personally and then emerged with a new love for life and myself and a desire to instill these in our children while they are young. I want to gift these to our young generation so that they are stronger to endure the cold harshness that the world can have at times. That is when the idea struck! I want to write illustrated children’s books, but I want to write them my way.
Every day and every task is one where I learn something new. The amount of medical knowledge is tremendously vast and every day I remain a student at work. The same goes for self publishing a book. I hear that nearly 80% of the population at large at some point have a thought about wanting to write a book but only 1% of them actually go on to publish one. The work is hard, however, the messages that our children need to hear and understand and believe in are far too important to give up on. Once my kids are put to sleep, my nights are filled with publishing classes and editing of my manuscripts. Working on 3 books at once (unrelated to one another but each equally important in the messages that they share) I find myself enjoying the collaboration it brings in working with others such as editors, illustrators, printing companies and other authors. How beautiful is it that a few people in the world can come together and create a wonderful finished product! Self publishing allows me to hold onto the messages and values that I insist need to be the focus of the story and direct the artistic portrayal of these across the pages. It does mean more work for me constantly, but it is not work when you love it so much!
At this time my artwork has inspired me to release my first book titled “My Greatest Masterpiece is You” which expresses the admiration coming from a parent secretly watching her son and daughter making several messy crafts and playing fun games in their craft room. After many pages of creative scenes and observations, she scoops them up and shows them a very simple photo of the two children and she tells them her secret - that THEY are her greatest masterpiece! As an artist who dabbles in a variety of projects, I wanted to write this book as a love letter to my children. No matter how much I create and aspire to make - they are my greatest masterpiece! And for each of you - you do not need to be an artist to recognize that your children too are one of the most profound accomplishments in your life. We all need to take the time to convey this to our children and express the love and admiration that we have for them and their beautiful creative minds. Reading this book together with them will serve as a great vessel for that message, or as a reminder.
As a brief note, my second book is about a bunny who struggles with painful constipation and his friend, a tortoise, who is there to support him despite his fears and share several tricks that he learned from his doctor to help. Together they try these things and the bunny has great success! My third book is inspired by my South African heritage and takes place in the Savanna. It is written by a South African (me) and illustrated by a South African (Francis Eusebio) and contains many wonderful characters including a brother and sister, cheetah cubs, a hornbill and an unexpected adventure where the children find that all along they have the bravery and self-love within themselves that they were wishing they had.
Gloves on at work, paint on my finger tips at home, and typing away on my tablet at night…. My hands never rest. My heart and mind work together to draw from the inspiration that is around me and within each of my experiences. A gorgeous painting can strike a cord within you from a far distance. A book merely viewed by its cover is much more of a challenge to work with, and hence, requires a greater dedication of time and effort. It is with this new journey that I have started to call upon the community for assistance and support. Utilizing a crowd funding campaign like Kickstarter grants us the opportunity to collaborate early in this publishing journey to make these books happen and get them into the hands of our children. It allows you to pledge to buy a preorder of my book and provides those funds upfront for me to use for printing costs. It is of no risk and provides an abundance of support. In a world where we thrive on interconnectedness made possible virtually through technology, our reach across the world is limitless. Our journeys are filled with new unexpected paths that may create for exciting opportunities and means of giving back to the communities that we love. I move forward with my plans, exploring the path that I am currently on and open myself up to the unexpected paths that may appear along the way. You never know what you might discover next!"
For offering support through a Kickstarter, you can pledge a preorder of my second or third book when they get ready for release. Information will be listed on my website with any updates on each of my 3 books.
Featured in our local venue at UH Hospital Geauga October 18th, 2021 - January 10th, 2022
Featured in our local venue at The Wembley Club May 23rd, 2022 - August 22nd, 2022