“Sylvia” – A welcome swallow depicted with kōwhai flowers

What do pharmacy and painting have in common? According to first-year pharmacy student Karen Vo: a lot.

When Vo started in the Doctor of Pharmacy program at WSU in fall of 2019 she was among many new student pharmacists being asked to tell their new classmates about themselves.

“It’s still weird to say, I’m an artist,” she recalls.

But that is precisely what she is.

Vo’s artwork depicts wildlife—an interest she attributes to being raised in the scenic Washington state. She explained that as she has spent more time on her artwork in recent years she has become more aware of the wildlife that surrounds her.

“Ren” – An American goldfinch depicted with a pacific rhododendron

“I’ve never thought about what might be sitting in the backyard,” said Vo.

In particular, she’s found she is more apt to notice the number and variety of birds she can see simply looking out her window. These birds often become the subjects of her artwork, as does wildlife from around the world.

“I’ve always dreamt of visiting countries with significant biodiversity,” said Vo. “I consider my art and research as a way of working towards that dream.”

Each painting takes her approximately 6-8 hours while drawings can take around 12 hours. The research for each piece can take 1-2 hours which Vo spends learning more about her subjects so she can make her artwork as accurate as possible.

“Facets”

“Art can be incredibly technical,” Vo explained. “There’s a lot of planning involved.”

This technical nature is one of the many similarities Vo has found between her artwork and pharmacy studies. Vo noted that both require a certain level of attention to detail and observation.

“[In pharmacy] being able to note small things can make an impact,” Vo explained.

Vo’s artwork is the same, her attention to small details help make her pieces all the more realistic.

But as alike as her dual roles as student pharmacist and artist are, there are also some key differences.

“Drawing helps ground me,” Vo said, “even if it doesn’t come out how I want it to, just putting it out there is really therapeutic.”

Vo explained that when she has taken a break from her art in the past she has missed it; her artwork is a part of who she is beyond a student, or a club member, or an employee.

“It’s hard to describe the satisfaction of putting a line on paper of the weight of the pencil in my hand… the satisfaction of putting the pen on paper,” said Vo.


You can see Karen Vo’s artwork through her Instagram @vokrn or on her online portfolio.