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From 1960 to 1966 painter and clinical nurse specialist Charles Kaiman studied at the Art Students League of New York. The technique he learned there has informed his work ever since. "It forces me to clear my mind of all extraneous thoughts," he says. "I've found it immensely helpful in avoiding burnout. I treat a lot of veterans who have survived horrific trauma and have posttraumatic stress disorder. Practicing this technique daily allows me to clean house emotionally and be fully present for my patients. They've often asked me how I continue to cope with hearing about trauma all day long. I've never told them about this painting technique. Perhaps I should. Maybe they can use it themselves."

Figure. For more of ... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. For more of Kaiman's work, see this month's

Kaiman explains, "The first step is to clear your mind of any preconceptions about what things look like. For example, most people would describe the color of a McIntosh apple as red. Ignore that preconception and carefully examine a small spot on the apple. The goal is to match the color at that spot precisely, as if your life depended on it, and then go on to match the color of the adjacent spot, and so on until the image is complete. The most difficult images can be rendered this way. The real difficulty lies in totally clearing the mind of the preconception. It's a form of visual meditation."


For more of Kaiman's work, see this month's Art of Nursing and visit