Julie Vanasse, OD, channeled her creativity into painting from a young age and envisioned herself pursuing a degree in fine art. Throughout her studies, though, she found the mechanism of the eye intriguing, and she ultimately changed her career. “Optometry stumbled upon me like fate. It’s natural that I would be drawn to the eyes because I love working on visual art,” she says.
After she graduated from the University of Montreal School of Optometry in 1984, she opened the doors to Optoplus, which has now grown to 25 locations in Canada.
BUILDING A GALLERY
The success of Optoplus is partly due to its unique art gallery feature. Dr. Vanasse hangs her artwork in the office and rotates them seasonally. Most patients most likely won’t see the same collection when they come in for their following visit.
Most of her artwork is inspired by the people around her, but she took on a challenge with the grand opening in Sherbrooke, a city in southern Quebec. To help create the atmosphere for the new office, she decided to try a different approach. Inching away from portrait paintings, she referenced a human eye as her subject and mixed shades of orange, blue, cream and black to match the practice’s wallpaper and furniture. It was also a technical challenge for her. She created four drafts, in pencil, spending about 20 hours over multiple days. She drew it on a large canvas, and it “required more experimentation than my past artwork, but I’m definitely happy with the outcome,” she says.
THE ART OF CONVERSATION
The finished painting now hangs behind the front desk, becoming the center of attention for any patient who walks in. It’s a great conversation-starter between Dr. Vanasse and her patients, especially those who are also fellow painters. “A lot of my patients practice art and seeing my paintings opens conversations I wouldn’t have been able to hear otherwise. These talks resemble an open table discussion in a museum, where artists exchange photos and give each other feedback. It’s a great space for encouragement and to witness each other’s growth,” she says. Several patients also expressed their desire to purchase paintings.
“Art is crucial, especially in the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic. As much as painting uplifts my mood, I want the artwork to uplift the spirits of anyone visiting the practice,” Dr. Vanasse says.
With Dr. Vanasse approaching retirement, she’s looking forward to the increased time and freedom she’ll have to explore new art styles. While the optometric practice years may be winding now, they’ve helped create the start of something new.
Check out more of Dr. Vanasse’s artwork on her website or her Instagram.