What Drawing Has in Common With Nursing

Self-Portrait. Pencil on paper 2001 by jparadisi

Telling Our Stories to Benefit Others is my latest blog post for TheONC; the online community for oncology care teams. Registering for TheONC is free for oncology nurses.

Having the opportunity to write about creativity and its place in the oncology setting allows me to blog out loud the internal dialogues about painting, writing, and nursing I’ve had ever since I came out of the closet as an artist over a decade ago.  I have found these words of Goethe’s true:

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”

In my pursuit of living creatively, I frequently find magic in the convergence of science, humanity, and art. For instance, take this passage written by Peter Steinhart:

To draw anything you have to find a connection with it. You have to turn off the noise that keeps you from focusing. You have to let the object stir you to empathy or ennoblement or joy or compassion-even to fear. You must see that things are a part of your world in some special way before you can attend to them.

Now re-read the same passage, with a few simple changes:

To be a nurse, you have to find a connection with people. You have to turn off the noise that keeps you from focusing. You have to let patient care stir you to empathy or ennoblement or joy or compassion-even to fear. You must see that your patients are a part of your world in some special way before you can attend to them.

When making art, or practicing the art of nursing, it all boils down to focus and connection. Whichever you are doing today, find that focus and connection. Someone’s life will be better, because you did.

Oh Yeah, Art Imitates Life

Salmon Heads (They Beat Themselves Bloody for the Opportunity to Spawn) by jparadisi 2006

Recently returned from a family trip, I turn my attention to a new project. September is a busy month.

In October, I’m exhibiting the paintings of From Cradle to Grave: The Color White , at Anka Gallery, in Portland, Oregon. As I write this post, David, my husband, is photographing the paintings in our living room/photography studio. David earned an Associate Degree in Television Production Arts before becoming a pharmacist. His technical skills support my small success as an artist and writer over the years. He understands the dual personae of  artist and health care provider.

The photographs serve as documentation of the series. Documenting artwork isn’t much different from documenting patient care in a chart. I describe the piece (or the patient), what I did, how I did it, and describe the conclusion in an artist statement. As an artist and nurse, I get lots of practice documenting people and things.

Besides making the paintings, and documenting them, I have to think about the exhibition as a whole. Neglecting to consider how each painting relates to another on a wall is like spending an entire shift in the ICU  focused on a patient’s respiratory care  for improved blood gas results, but overlooking the patient is running a fever and not treating it. Despite a shift of good work, the oncoming nurse will point out the obvious mistake to you, and you will feel foolish.