Something My Patients Don’t Know: How They Inspire Me As An Artist

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I started making art around the time I finished my doctoral program. I knew I needed something to do after studying all day every day—a hobby.

At the time, my oldest two kids were preschool age. We were sitting around drawing and coloring and I thought, “This is actually pretty cool.” So, I continued with it. 

Over the years, making art has evolved from a hobby to a part of who I am. Even though I am self-taught, I consider myself an artist as much as I consider myself a psychologist.

my patients

What I Do When I Make Art

My process usually starts with a sketch. If I have downtime, I draw different ideas in a sketchbook that I carry with me. Right now, I probably have 10 or so ideas in my queue to work on. And it takes about a month to make any one piece.

These days, I make a lot of what’s called mixed media art. I use a variety of materials. For instance, I carve wood into various designs, paint it, and then add other materials—like metal.

I make representational art—like animals—as well as more abstract stuff—like wooden “quilt squares.”

How Making Art Impacts My Work With Children … And Vice Versa

Making art is something I can do just for me. And, as odd as it sounds, this helps me in my job as a pediatric psychologist.

A lot of my art is based on kids. I get so much inspiration from my work with children. For example, my most recent piece was called “Connect Four,” like the board game.

I’ve found that the process of making art is very different from my work process. My job has a very specific beginning, but not necessarily a concrete ending. This is because I work with people—and we as people are always works in progress.

But when I make art, there’s a concrete process: I design it, carve it, paint it, and at some point in time I frame it and it’s done. It’s a completed piece that I have made from nothing. I get a huge amount of gratification from that process.

It also helps me relax. I have control over whether the results turn out pretty or poor. It’s all on me. But that’s not always the case with my job. So, making art gives me a sense of balance—art gets me out of my head and gives me a different part of my identity.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Also read: 3 Ways Making Art Can Help Heart Families Cope


Sean Akers

Hi, I’m Dr. Sean Akers, and I’m a Licensed Clinical Pediatric Psychologist at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. I serve as the primary psychologist for the heart transplant team as well as the coordinator of the Consult Liaison Service. My job is to provide heart kids and their families with support throughout their journey.

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