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  • What We’re Doing Today: Meet Jack Rootman, MD

    After Jack Rootman obtained his doctor of medicine from the University of Alberta in 1968, he finished a residency in ophthalmology there in 1974. Fellowships in pathology at University of London, in orbital oncology at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, New York, and in orbital diseases at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London followed. He served as clinical assistant professor ophthalmology and pathology at the University of Alberta in 1973-75.

    Then he went to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver to be associate professor of ophthalmology and pathology, 1976-84 and then professor of ophthalmology and pathology, Univ. B.C. In 1990, Dr. Rootman was appointed ophthalmology chairman at the University of British Columbia. He has had an illustrious career as chairman, as an expert in orbital anatomy and surgery and as a pathologist, and authored two important books, “Diseases of the Orbit: A Multidisciplinary Approach” and “Orbital Surgery: A Conceptual Approach.”

    Reflection of Jack and Jenny. Description: Distorted mirror image surrounded by a flower bed. 

    Today Scope focuses on Dr. Rootman because of his paintings. He has had at least 11 one-man shows in Canada, Singapore, and Australia.

    Alfredo Sadun, MD, PhD: Jack, thank you for letting us talk about and see your art. How and when did you become interested in art?

    Jack Rootman, MD: I became interested in art during my early childhood when my mother sent me to a local art institute in Calgary, Alberta.

    Dr. Sadun: How did you learn and train?

    Dr. Rootman: I attended evening courses at the Emily Carr School of Art in Vancouver and completed a variety of courses including drawing, print making, painting with various media as well as studying the History of Art. In 1996, I took a sabbatical year as ophthalmology department chair at the University of British Columbia. This allowed me to go to New York City to study at the Art Students League as part of the New York Academy of Art. There I immersed myself in visiting art galleries of every description. This included being a student at the Art Institute that was endowed by Andy Warhol.

    Daniel Rootman. Portrait of Dr. Jack Rootman’s son.

    Dr. Sadun: Did Warhol’s revolutionary approach make an impression on you?

    Dr. Rootman: I wasn’t inclined to follow that direction. But you should know that Warhol’s art school, which he financially supported, emphasized classical teaching. And they had many realistic painters.

    Dr. Sadun: Do you personally collect artwork extensively?

    Dr. Rootman: My wife, Jenny Puterman, and I have been collecting art for many years. We focus on Canadian artists and some American artists. In addition, we have collected art from many of my art mentors. In fact, two of my teachers painted portraits of myself and Jenny.

    Ode to Degas. On the image on the right, you see a painting by Cézanne entitled “The Card Players.” The one on the left is “The Anise Drinkers.”

    Dr. Sadun: How are you inspired to do a painting?

    Dr. Rootman: My inspiration largely derives from my journey which has involved using different media: watercolor, oil paint, pastel and acrylic. In addition, I purposely followed certain themes such as alpine meadows, rocky shorelines, and portraits. I also hired models to pose in various environments to study and express emotions. I would use various paintings and sketching techniques. I became a member of a studio group that studied figurative art.

    In 1998, I developed rheumatoid arthritis, and this motivated a turn to painting miniatures and collage work. Once my arthritis was under control, I was able to undertake larger thematic paintings. Additionally, I have always maintained a strong interest in photography and have been recognized for some of my photographic images. Nowadays, my photography begins the process of inspiration for my digital art creativity.

    Compress and stretch. Description: Water flowing around a large stone in a channeled stream showing what seems to be compression and expansion of the flow as seen by anglers. 

    Dr. Sadun: So, you experiment with different approaches?

    Dr. Rootman: Resoundingly, yes! I use photography, painting, and I also use nontraditional materials in my work. For example, surgical drapes, and sand for imprinting on the painting.

    Dr. Sadun: Do you, like many of the giants, go through phases of style?

    Dr. Rootman: Well, yes. My main phases have gone through the trajectory of realistic, abstract and more recently, digital work.

    Canopy. Description: A view of the construct of metal, wood and glass forming the roof of the art gallery. It was deconstructed digitally and then painted with oils. 

    Dr. Sadun: I asked you to show us some of your favorite pieces? Readers will see your art enclosed.  

    Dr. Rootman: See for yourself on my Instagram page.

    Dr. Sadun: What are some of the things you have learned that came from painting?

    Dr. Rootman: I learned to observe carefully, follow my intuition, be bold and use texture.

    Dr. Sadun: And what did you learn of your subjects? Did art help you understand them?

    Dr. Rootman: Yes, since I posed for the paintings as well, I got to understand the transference of personality and character. Largely, as the painter, I would work from a series of photographs of the subject, taken while the subject talked about himself or about his or her interests. And to this, I might add a three- to-four-hour sitting. Of course, I developed a better understanding of that person. The finished painting usually pleased the subject, but not necessarily the subject’s spouse. On one occasion, the husband found his wife depicted as too powerful! He might have been frightened by that.

    Dr. Sadun: Have you found a connection between ophthalmology and painting?

    Dr. Rootman: As a pathologist, ocular oncologist, and orbital surgeon, I was interested in perspectives, various viewpoints and the variation in color and texture. One interesting thing is that when I was doing surgery, I had to ask my residents to reserve questions and answers to later. I was in a visual mode and not able to easily converse.

    Dr. Sadun: That’s amazing because I had the same issue. I don’t want to exaggerate and say I became aphasic, but maybe a little. While I was doing orbital surgery, I wasn’t articulate and had a very hard time finding words.

    What else would you like to add?

    Dr. Rootman: I also learned a lot about imagery in the process of writing and illustrating scientific papers and books and working with a medical artist. We would communicate online or in person by drawings based on a human skull.