The GP artist: Dr Martin Brunet interview

For Surrey GP Dr Martin Brunet, art is a creative outlet that helps to balance the day-to-day pressures of general practice.

Has painting always been a part of your life?

I didn't really enjoy art at school and when I dropped it at the age of 13, that was the end of my formal art education.

It wasn't until I was at university that I began dabbling with a bit of oil painting, really just making it up as I went along.

The years of one in three on-call didn't exactly inspire creativity, but I picked it up again as a GP. Bizarrely, it was doing a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) that really got me back into it.

For one of the PGCE modules, I had to learn something new (and reflect on it, of course). I had never had a go at watercolour, so I decided that I would take a painting holiday in the Lake District.

As well as falling in love with that part of the UK, it taught me to love the learning process in art and not worry too much about the finished product - sometimes you'll be happy to hang it on the wall, sometimes it's destined for the back of a cupboard, but as long as you enjoy the process, it really doesn't matter.

From that time on, I have really enjoyed my art and found it to be both uplifting and therapeutic.

I have learnt almost entirely by trial and error, looking at art and reading art magazines. I have learnt that art is much more about what you see with your eyes than what you draw with your hands and, most of all, I've learnt that there is so much more I have to learn.

Images: JH Lancy

Which medium do you prefer and what inspires you?

I am always inspired by trying something new, so I have tried oils, acrylic and watercolour, as well as pastels, graphite and charcoal.

Oils are fabulous because you can work away at them over a long period, but I need a week off to really tackle an oil, as there is so much preparation to do. In an evening, it's easier to get out a couple of pencils and a sketchbook.

I am always drawn to portraits - there is something magical about seeing a likeness come alive. My inspiration comes from admiring the art of others.

What do you enjoy about art and do you go to exhibitions?

I have always enjoyed being creative and loved the thrill of standing back to look at something I have made, whatever it may be.

While I find general practice hugely rewarding, the one thing it lacks is a creative outlet. We spend our working days trying to restore what has been damaged, rather than building anything new.

Becoming absorbed in a drawing or painting, where you lose track of everything around you, including the time, is wonderful, even if it means you have to set an alarm in case you forget to pick the children up from school.

I love going to art galleries and can spend hours wandering around, gathering inspiration and examining the artist's techniques - my family usually have to drag me away.

Do you have any other creative outlets?

Writing can also be a very creative process and is something I have enjoyed increasingly in recent years. I completed a children's novel several years ago, primarily so my own children could read it (they were polite enough to say they enjoyed it), and I joined a sketch-writing group for a couple of years.

In the past three years, I have turned to blogging, keeping a health-related blog on my practice website. I started blogging because I wanted to provide my patients with information, but I was surprised by how creative it turned out to be. The great thing is that, like art, anyone can give it a try.

  • Dr Brunet is a GP in Guildford, Surrey

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