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  • Joe Inglis

Sculpture born of the art of being a vet

They say that being a vet is as much an art as it is a science, and after more than 20 years in practice, I definitely agree. Of course veterinary surgery is a scientific profession at heart, relying on a detailed understanding of the facts and concepts involved in disease processes, but there is no doubt that experience, communication skills and the dark ‘art’ of practice also play a massive role in the job. Whether it’s dealing it with tricky clients, or fathoming unusual cases with symptoms that just don’t fit together as they should, any vet worth their salt is as much an artist as a scientist.

So, with veterinary work having a definite artistic side to it, it’s not surprising that many vets swap their syringes and scalpels for paintbrushes and chisels when they leave the surgery and indulge their artistic instincts in hobbies such as painting or sculpture. And some even go one step further and leave the surgery for good to take up an alternative career as a fulltime artist. I’ve met a couple of really good painters who turned out to be vets in previous lives, and also many vets who would love to spend more time being truly creative. And it was a chance conversation with a fellow vet a few years ago that set me thinking about my own artistic ambitions.

I’ve always had an artistic side to me, probably inherited from my mother, grandmother and great grandmother who were all painters and I’ve dabbled in various art forms over the years, but like the vet I talked to, I’ve always been too busy working to have the time to explore what I could do properly. So, inspired by the conversation I decided to find the time and have go at sculpting, as this has always been my dream artistic discipline.

After many months experimenting with all sorts of media and techniques, I started to create some pieces that I was surprisingly happy with – and even more surprisingly to me, that were accepted into galleries and exhibitions. And so, a couple of years later, I made the big decision to follow in the footsteps of those vets I’d met who had left the practice behind and I hung up my scalpel and syringe for good.

Since leaving the world of pets behind, I’ve been experiencing the highs and lows of an artistic career. There’s been the amazing feelings of submissions being accepted into exhibitions, works being sold and finding new homes, and wonderful positive feedback from people viewing my works – but there’s also been the long, lonely hours in the studio with no colleagues or patients for company, the drastic reduction in income and the frustrations of works that don’t come out as planned. Overall though, I’ve little doubt that I’ve made the right decision, as for me, art offers something the world of veterinary practice never could – the opportunity to be truly and originally creative.

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​© 2018 Joe Inglis  Photography by David Cook