by Louise Reichert
the art in medicine
Susan (Neiger) Roubal, whose childhood was spent in Marquette, has returned
to the area with her medical career behind her and a passion for painting.
Don Curto, owner of the New York Deli, said her art is excellent, and
that he was hosting an exhibit of her pastel paintings because she hasnt
yet been introduced to the Marquette community as an artist.
Daughter of Arthur and Virginia Neiger, Roubal said she never wanted
to be anything but a doctor, even at the age of three. As she grew older,
she babysat for families of doctors. Soon, she began volunteering at
the hospital. It seemed only natural that medical school would follow.
Radiology and pediatrics became Roubals focus, and her specialization
led to a career at Childrens Hospital in Detroit. There her training
in CT and MRI imaging of body and brain allowed her to diagnose diseases
and syndromes in very sick children. It was a demanding and stressful
career, but one in which she thrived.
In 1995, Roubal was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. By 1996, she
was using a wheelchair, and by 1998, she was on permanent medical disability.
Forced to retire from active medical practice, Roubals physical
condition taught her to learn to relax, to make healthier choices and
to discover a part of her that was not connected to a medical career.
One day, at an art exhibit in Grosse Pointe, where she and her husband
Dennis were living, she saw a painting done in pastels. It struck her
dramatically. This became for her one of those moments when she realized
this was something she had to do. Roubal had taken art only in high
school. Although she had done well, it had never been a focal point
Roubal plunged into taking classes. One of the first was a class on
landscape taught by master pastelist, Larry Blovits of Grand Rapids.
As she studied landscape painting, and later, portraiture, Roubal began
to realize that she had an eye for detail and a real talent for this
kind of art.
As she developed her own style, she began to recognize that sixteen
years of radiological training had given her a three-dimensional spatial
sense that served her in this newfound world of art as well. The ability
to pick out a tiny abnormality on myriad x-ray films had sharpened her
observational skills to note minute detail easily.
Although she has been met with puzzlement and some disdain from some
of her colleagues for forsaking her medical career and training, Roubal
said nothing else could have made her this happy. While she continues
to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis,
her most productive painting time occurs during periods of remission.
Without having experienced the pain and disability, I never would
have discovered I have this talent and had to make a choice to develop
this career, she said. Its an attitude adjustment
found we have a whole lot more control over our lives than we think.
Roubal paints on sanded art paper. She uses a fine grit that grabs and
holds layers of pastels. This archival paper stands up to water, denatured
alcohol and mineral spirits. Her subject matter consists primarily of
rustic, outdoor scenery. Roubal attempts to capture periods in time,
those fleeting moments when a sunset, for instance, makes you catch
your breath in awe.
Today, Roubal and her husband Dennis are building a house on a large,
wooded lot on Timber Creek Road. They have received a true Yooper welcome
by being put in touch with all of the right people at the exact time
they have required their services. Dennis is self-employed with Financial
Growth Concepts, as a fee-only certified financial planner.
Their son, Kenneth, is a senior at Michigan State University. Roubals
parents, Arthur and Virginia Neiger still live in Shiras Hills. Her
brother Michael, who is a Wilderness Trip Leader with the Central Upper
Peninsula Group, Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club, also lives in
Marquette. She has two other brothers, David who lives in Traverse City,
and Steve who resides in a group home in Mount Pleasant.
Reconnected with her family and childhood surroundings, Roubal knows
well the appreciation Marquette residents have for the beauty that is
all around them. She hopes that, via her painting, she is able to recapture
those moments that speak to memories of special times and special places.
Her work, she said, does not require a guidebook. It is just beauty.
It has been a journey to self-fulfillment, she said. Im
still amazed that when I pick up a pastel, a miracle happens.
Roubal said she feels truly blessed. She does not believe her time spent
in the practice of medicine was wasted.
Life is an additive experience, and that life experience enhanced
my abilities, she said.
She has had a satisfying journey to something that, it would seem, was
meant to happen.
Roubal has joined Painters on the Loose, the Lake Superior Artists Association,
and is a member of the Great Lakes Pastel Society. Her work can be viewed
online at susanroubal.tripod.com
Her paintings will be on display at The New York Deli from October 29
through November 11 at 231 House of Muses at 231 West Washington Street
from November 19 through December 2.