It is painstaking. And it is joy.
When Jay Appurao sits before a canvas, painting, he is no longer Jay Appurao, M.D. (or Dr. Jay, as he’s known to his patients). He’s an explorer and a craftsman: an artist.
Appurao grew up in rural India, in a small village where the idea of art as a profession was simply not part of the culture. “It wasn’t even considered, really,” he said. “If you were going to pursue an education and a career, you were pointed in the direction of medicine.”
But he loved to draw. More than that, he seemed compelled to draw. “There were no art supplies available. If you wanted something like that, you had to be in a big city,” he recalled. So, he used what he found – scraps of paper, the nubs of pencils – and he drew and drew. And drew.
Eventually, he did go to medical school in India to become a surgeon and later moved to New York City to continue his studies. With the move came a revelation: “I realized what a great education I had received, that I was very well prepared for my career.”
His training in India also gave him an unexpected advantage in art. Every week, the medical students were required to create a portfolio of anatomical drawings. “When you draw something yourself, you remember it. You have learned it,” he said.
Living in New York meant access to art supplies and to major museums. “But now that I could get any sort of supplies I wanted, I had no time to make art,” said Appurao with a shrug and a smile. He did, however, find time to visit museums and galleries, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he he didn’t just view paintings – he studied them.
As an artist, Appurao is entirely self-taught – from the basic skills of composition, perspective and shading to the very complex process of oil painting, He learned how to draw and paint through careful observation, critical thinking and most of all “trial and error … I can look at each of my paintings and see what I was working on at that time. What was I trying to understand and to master?”
His art is a study in self-exploration, with subjects, styles and techniques that vary widely and include landscapes, portraits and still-life paintings. He points to a particular work, “The Time Keeper,” as a personal breakthrough. The subject of the painting is a grandfather clock, given to him by his father..Appurao photographed the clock, then painted it, focusing on the light spilling across the dial. He precisely captures the clock’s filigree hands casting shadows on its etched face.
“The Time Keeper” shows the artist’s strengths in perspective, shading and the use of color. But the image itself holds a deeper, warmer meaning.
“My father is my hero. He worked very hard and was away from home much of the time. But he always came home to spend time with us – and we made the most of that time together. He instilled in us that life is for living. We should always be inspired to do our best.”
Appurao continues his artistic work – as a cosmetic surgeon and as a painter. “I paint to please myself,” said Appurao. “And to challenge myself, as well.”
Jay Appurao, M.D., FACS, is board certified in cosmetic surgery and general surgery. He and his wife Dr. Vijaya Jayagopal, an anesthesiologist, live in Lafayette. The couple has two children and two grandchildren.