Dr Leslie Robinson – artist and FCR

Just over three years ago I retired as an academic reader at the University of Salford. I had started my career as a diagnostic radiographer some 38 years earlier, enrolling in the Bradford School of Radiography in 1980. I enjoyed a varied and exciting career working in Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester and even Saudi Arabia. After specialising in cross-sectional imaging I followed an academic path gaining a lectureship at Salford in 1999. My time as a lecturer was extremely fulfilling having held roles as year tutor, programme leader, admissions tutor, director for PhD students and qualitative researcher, with particular emphasis on the patient experience of imaging. I also gained a Doctorate in Education at Huddersfield – being awarded my degree by Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise (AKA Sir Patrick Stewart, then university chancellor) was a career highlight!

As an academic I also travelled far and wide including: Finland, Sweden, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Austria, the USA, South Africa, Ireland and all the countries of the UK.

I’ve worked closely with the Society and College of Radiographers, having played a role in the development of a number of their guidelines including the first MR Safety Guidelines in the early 1990s, and, more recently, the society’s Social Media Guidelines and the Patient, Public and Practitioners Partnership Guidelines. I’ve also been lucky enough to be recognised through awards in the Radiographer of the Year scheme, and more recently achieved the Fellowship of the College of Radiographers.

Yes, a career as a radiographer has certainly given me much to be grateful for.

However, as any radiographer can attest, radiography, whilst immensely rewarding, can take over your life, particularly when combined with the demands of academia. There was always the pressure to publish, bid for funds and be ready to drop everything for a student in dire need of support. There was never a five-day working week or eight-hour working day. Consequently my lifetime passion for painting and creating art had to be put on the back burner.

So retirement has allowed me to fill this artistic void. Over the last two years I have painted hundreds of pictures, taken courses with some great artists and persuaded my husband to convert the conservatory into a studio. I’ve also exhibited, won a competition and have even started to sell a few pieces. Maybe I can now call myself an artist!

CT of the abdomen

However, I’m well aware that I’m only at the beginning of a very exciting new journey and one thing I’ve struggled with is finding my style. I seem to vacillate from landscapes to florals to portraits and have even dabbled in the odd (very odd!) abstract. But they do say paint what you know and so I’ve hit upon a way to use my art in order to combine my knowledge of radiographic imaging and research in patient experience.

My series, ‘Subjectify’, entwines the person behind (in front of?) the image, in all their abstracted individuality, along with their objective medical image. These are the two worlds in which imaging professionals are required to practise, the objective and the subjective, and we must never forget that they are both equally important.

The artwork currently consists of eight pieces (MRI, CT, mammography, plain film, angiography and ultrasound) and is for sale as originals or as copies printed on paper or canvas, in a range of sizes. More details can be found on my webpage.

Subjectify artwork

I am not interested in benefiting financially from my art. Instead I’d prefer to donate profits from this series to charity. It’s my way of giving back to a wonderful profession. If you have any radiography or imaging-related charity I can support with my work I’d be more than happy to help.

I must tell one final tale which so beautifully completes the circle of my career. In my very first week, whilst my peers were taking their first x-rays, I was rostered into ‘the library’ – the duffer of a placement where students were expected to undertake self-directed work, not easy when you’re in your first week and, to misquote some US statesman, you don’t know what you don’t know. So I got out a Gray’s Anatomy and copied a drawing of the heart. I was having a jolly good time when the principal came into the library and asked me whether I really thought drawing was a good way to learn anatomy. Well, Mr Naylor, 38 years on, I think I did you proud but no matter all that, I return to painting hearts. Still, I now know what I know!

Submitted by Leslie Robinson, artist and FCR.

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