Dr. Richard Zoumalan, both a surgeon and painter, utilizes his artistic talents in and outside the office. His art gives meaning, depth, and a new perspective to his work as a surgeon, for he believes that one art improves the other.
Tell us about your artistic background, when did you first begin painting: My love for the arts began at a young age with both music and arts lessons. As a child, I would hound my parents to put me in different classes and different outlets for artistic expression. They definitely had their hands full taking me all around and taking me to art and instrument lessons. I am really appreciate of this opportunity, because it opened my eyes to the arts and made me thing outside the box at a really young age. Thus, I began painting at such a young age, I don’t reember when I started. My love for painting accelerated further as I learned more and more about anatomy in school. As I learned more about the underlying structures that make a face, I began to look at the curved differently and began understanding what makes some cheeks bigger than others, why noses are shaped differently in people, and on and on.
What influences and motivates your artistic endeavors? I am motivated by the beautiful curvatures found in each individual face. I don’t believe that there is a set standard of beauty. Beauty is the most subjective viewpoint that humans have. I like to paint faces and figure out what lies at the core of attraction. During my surgical training, they taught us that there are certain set ratios that are indicative of the beauty. Through painting, I find that these ratios don’t translate and beauty is very individual. Often, you can’t express why someone is so beautiful. That’s what I really obsess about while painting.
Where do you find inspiration? I find inspiration in my ability to take a flat surface and create an image that strikes emotion. I know that most artists feel this way about their medium, so I guess I’m not unique in that. I find inspiration throughout my day. I find it at work when I’m analyzing a facial structure. I find it during surgery when I’m dissecting tissues. I find it when I’m at an event and talking to people. Inspiration is everywhere.
I am motivated by the beautiful curvatures found in each individual face. I don’t believe that there is a set standard of beauty. Beauty is the most subjective viewpoint that humans have.
What is your typical medium when producing art? My typical mediums include painting with acrylics, spray painting with acrylic, painting with oils, and sometimes using texture such as diamond dust. I paint with a “Pop Art” style which was originally made famous by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. I’m constantly trying out new mediums. There is a big movement towards digital art, but I’m much more traditional in the sense that I paint by hand. Similar to surgery, working with my hands in this way gives me a high level of satisfaction.
How does your art play into your work as a surgeon? Seeing facial shadows is integral in being a Facial Plastic Surgeon. Even when doing a treatment such a filler to a cheek, one needs to see the shadows around it that are affected. Every aspect of Facial Plastic Surgery revolves around shadows. Painting is the same. Shadows create the image. One’s understanding of how shadows affect each other is improved by painting and by surgery. One art improves the other. I feel that being an artist allows me to see things better in the office and in the operating room.
I often say that surgery is the ultimate art form.
In what ways do see your work as a surgeon as a form of artistic expression? I often say that surgery is the ultimate art form. While my paintings hang on walls, my surgical art goes all around the world for everyone to see. Surgery is so much more complex than painting. The complexity of managing living tissue that will continue to heal once I am done with it has infinite intricacies that make it challenging. In surgery, the medium is bleeding, swelling, changing shape and color. It’s a dance between the surgeon and the life form. This challenge drives me and keeps me constantly stimulated and passionate about this highest art form.