J. Philipp Othmer, M.D.
J. Philipp Othmer, M.D., received an unexpected gift in his office Secret Santa exchange.
A new hobby.
Several years ago, Dr. Othmer, a psychiatrist, drew the name of an intake coordinator with bare office walls. Though his art experience was limited to some books he’d recently bought to help his daughters learn to draw and paint, he decided to paint a picture for her.
“A wonderful thing about the world today is how easy it is to learn anything,” he said. “You just go on YouTube. Or you can just buy a book and use YouTube to clarify anything.”
Dr. Othmer’s co-worker loved the flower he painted. He got so many compliments from both staff and patients that he eventually did a painting for each of his co-workers. Soon he was getting requests from all over the hospital where he worked.
Dr. Othmer’s paintings now decorate his office at LG Health Physicians Behavioral Health, where he has treated adults, children and adolescents since August. He finds that his painting hobby helps him connect with his family, patients and co-workers.
“Painting is a lot of fun and a great stress relief for me,” he said. “I’ll probably do a painting for everyone here too. Usually I just ask what they want or like, and pick one that will be a new challenge.”
Dr. Othmer, who converted the basement bar of his Lititz home into an art studio, appreciates the fun and challenge of learning to re-create a subject accurately. He enjoys teaching his daughters, Ava, 11, and Alice, 8, to draw and paint.
“They run hot and cold,” he said. “You try and try, and it seems like you’re not getting anywhere. Then a week or month later, they bring home something really good they did in art at school. Happy surprise.”
A native of St. Louis, Dr. Othmer originally joined his father’s psychiatry practice. He and his family moved to Pennsylvania six years ago, when he took a position at Philhaven in York.
He prefers to work in acrylics and paint natural subjects, such as still lifes and flowers. Some of the best advice he got was from a college art professor, who urged new painters to “leave watercolors to the masters.”
“However, we all started at school with watercolors, and it was awful,” he said. “The colors run, and the paper wrinkles. It’s very frustrating.”
Dr. Othmer’s work includes a mural in the quiet room at Philhaven and a painting of flowers for his grandmother’s 101st birthday. He generally tries to stay away from painting people because it’s too hard.
“When I first asked my wife what she’d want a painting of, she said, ‘Well, the kids would be nice,’ ” he laughs. “But it’s very easy to make someone look like a clown, a Picasso or some pinkish disaster, and if you show it to them, they get very upset. ‘Is that what I look like to you?’ What are you supposed to say? ‘Uh, yes, Honey, and I’m hanging it on the refrigerator.’ ”
Art offers an incredible way to bond with patients, Dr. Othmer said. Patients often comment on the paintings that hang in his office. Flowers in particular seem to express parents’ joy and relief when their child or adolescent gets better.
“Painting is relaxing for me because it’s obscure, it doesn’t ‘matter,’ and I can do it at my own pace or obsess out on it,” he said. “It’s really rewarding to be able to see the fruits of your own labor emerge.”
Dr. Othmer painted a mural in the quiet room at his former practice.
He began painting as an activity to share with his daughters, Ava, 11, and Alice, 8.