Cathartic Canvases

Former emergency room physician SUSAN KINSELLA traded the hectic hospital for the serenity of creating art

Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles: You spent 32 years as an emergency room physician—a most demanding and consuming position—and then became an artist. How was that transition? 

Susan Kinsella: I traded frantic passion for serene passion. Being an ER doctor is enormously rewarding, but it’s equally exhausting. In 2016, I woke from a dream and knew that I should paint. I saw my last patient in November 2019—the end of my incredibly fulfilling career with Piedmont Hospital and Piedmont Urgent Care. 

AH&L: Did you take art lessons? 

SK: I’ve never taken art lessons. Although I was a crafty kid, I was a chemistry major, so art was not part of my curriculum. I’m self-taught and I continue to evolve in both subject and technique.

AH&L: Where do you find inspiration?

SK: Travel is my inspiration—both literal and figurative. Whether drawing on my own travel experiences or watching documentaries, I’m captivated by landscapes, the ocean and boats. From the U.S., to Scotland, to the coasts of France and Spain, I love the sense of community in small towns and how they relate to the land and water.

AH&L: It’s evident that your medical career influences your painting style because your boats and houses are very precise; there’s nothing abstract or obscure in your paintings. Is that deliberate? 

SK: I’m not an abstract artist; rather, I’m more fulfilled when I’m painting realistic places. I think peaceful solitude is good for the body, and I hope my paintings of land and water nourish the viewer’s soul. 

AH&L: What do you love most about painting? 

SK: I love the feeling and validation when someone is moved enough by my painting to buy it. Of course, there’s validation in helping people through medicine, but it’s a different kind of emotion when one inspires another person through art.

AH&L: Does anyone else in your family paint? 

SK: My stepgrandchildren love to visit my studio, but I put all of my paintings away so that they can have creative free-rein. My late husband didn’t paint, but he supported this next chapter, and I only wish he’d been here longer to share it with me. 

AH&L: What’s been the best thing about leaving medicine to paint? 

SK: I’m so happy that my right brain has been freed!