The strong connection between science and art


Tiffany Riley enjoys painting a landscape on a farm in Beaurecueil, France. Her 6-week art adventure provided a new perspective on life.

Electric Lime. Flamingo Pink. B’Dazzled Blue. My earliest memories from pre-school were sitting at the craft table with Crayola crayons sprawled out before me, itching to be scribbled with, ground to the paper, and made into bits of waxy crayon dust. Art has always been a creative outlet for me since before I knew my ABCs. Luckily, exploring this passion didn’t have to take the backseat when I decided to pursue a career in 

Art adventure in France

The summer before pharmacy school began in 2013, on a whim, I enrolled in a 6-week studio art program located the quaint town of Aix-en-Provence in southern France at the Marchutz School of Fine Arts. The program had immediately peaked my curiosity. Their mission statement was threefold: “to enhance awareness of the relationship between perception and imagination, to develop historical and critical perspectives, and above all, to develop each student’s capacity to see.” I could have never anticipated what I would learn about the world and myself over those 6 weeks.

I departed the San Francisco Airport on a direct flight to Paris on a foggy June morning. I remember waking up as we flew over Greenland. As I peered out of my passenger seat window down onto the arctic tundra below, my heart gave a flutter. I was alone and traveling to a foreign country where I did not speak the preferred language. Just what in the world had I gotten myself into?

The next few weeks passed quickly and I easily adopted a routine, one in which I thoroughly enjoyed. The days began with eating breakfast with my housemate, another student in the program, and Flan, the house cat. The walk to the studio was a quick one and once all of the students gathered at the Marchutz Atelier, we piled into the van that took us further out into the countryside. In fact, we were off to paint “en plein air,” out on a farm in Beaurecueil. I had never really painted outside, but I fell in love with it and experienced the first of many epiphanies. 

Out there on the edge of the golden fields of wheat I stood, beads of sweat collected on my skin as I unavoidably stepped on the snails beneath my feet and ant bites the size of silver dollars accumulated on my calves. I could not have been happier, for it was there that I truly began to see. 

After a morning of painting, the group retired to the studio to eat our home lunches, which consisted of fresh olives, goat cheese, salami, and whatever fruit was on sale at the market. The camaraderie that existed in the group was unforgettable. We were from all over the world and from a variety of backgrounds such as law, medicine, psychology, and art. After lunch, we were free to paint at the studio or explore Aix. I ended the day eating dinner with my French host family out in the backyard garden, sharing our 

A new perspective on life

At first glance, many people may not think there is a strong connection between art and science, specifically oil painting and pharmacy. But as I spent time painting and thinking about art, I stitched together a connection that couldn’t be more apparent. 

The discussions we had on Fridays during our art criticism seminar course included engaging topics on writings produced by T. S. Eliot, Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh, and many others. We analyzed their prose, searching for connections between their world and ours. Dialogues on understanding the harmony between shapes and colors, the balance between light and dark, and how to bring objects and line to life, all gave me a new perspective and generated an outpouring of imagination. 

I recorded my thoughts between science and art in a journal I kept that summer. “In order to be inventive, one must be curious and motivated to think differently than others. Even though I may not be creating art when practicing pharmacy, I am still using my imagination to solve problems,” I wrote. It’s this thirst for curiosity and pioneering that I hope to bring to pharmacy. 

I have nothing but the deepest admiration for the Marchutz School and its professors, Alan Roberts and John Gasparach. Through this experience I learned more about myself and the world around me. I learned how to approach a problem holistically and gained a new perspective on life.