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Art of Medicine

"Whose Woods These Are . . ."

Watercolor, 61/2 inches by 91/2 inches
By Seymour E. Wheelock, M.D.

It was nearly 90 years ago, "prior to matriculating in kindergarten," that Seymour Wheelock says he began to draw--on the walls of his bedroom. The creative urge never left the now-93-year-old retired pediatrician. "At first, I had only the 10-color box" of crayons, he recalls, "but a devoted uncle bought me a 24-color box, and my horizons expanded." They expanded further when he went off to college at Dartmouth (he's not a direct descendant of Eleazar Wheelock, Dartmouth's founder, but they do have a relative in common). Wheelock was a premed, but his artistic talents didn't go to waste; he earned 50 cents an hour illustrating botany and zoology laboratory manuals for one of his professors. After graduating from Dartmouth in 1940, he went on to Northwestern for his M.D. but later returned to Dartmouth twice--for his internship in 1944-45 and as an assistant professor of pediatrics from 1962 to 1966. Those three stints in Hanover cast a spell on him; though he spent most of his career at the University of Colorado and now lives in Taos, N.M., he "couldn't leave New England in thought and mind." Indeed, there's a New England sensibility in the watercolor above, as well as in its Robert Frost-inspired title. Wheelock has always favored watercolor because it's a medium that's "flexible and tolerant and multifaceted." He has long been a photography buff, too, and his photos sometimes serve as inspiration for watercolors. He maintains that "every moment of each day is a source . . . of paintable ideas. . . . Some occasions and some settings just cry out for a paintbox." Once, Wheelock brought paint and film together in an unusual way: "The folks in our hardware store have a custom of stirring their household colors and discarding the dripping mixing stick in a metal waste can," he says. "I looked into the can one day, marveled at the random swirls of color, took a picture of them, and won honorable mention in a local [photography] competition!"

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