Dr. Mohit Bhandari, Artist Spotlight




Dr. Mohit Bhandari is a Distinguished University Professor – an honor held by less than 2% of Faculty at McMaster University, Canada. He is also the Chair of Surgery, and Research Chair in Surgical Innovation. Dr. Bhandari is a recipient of the Order of Ontario and more recently inducted into the Order of Canada. He has authored over 1,000 scientific papers and is among the top 10 most cited orthopedic fracture surgeons in the world.

Today we welcome Dr. Bhandari as he joins us in a discussion on the importance of the role of the Arts in scientific endeavors and the development of a creativity mindset as the cornerstone of invention and reinvention.


Welcome to Moonflower Art, Mohit!


When did you start painting?


I loved drawing as a child but really started to explore painting in Grade 8.


We all have a teacher who inspired us to try something new. Mr. Crawford was my Grade 8 art teacher and introduced me (on the school lunch breaks) to oils. We spent many afternoons painting and I’ll never forget his kindness and attention.


While I’ve formally never taken any art lessons, I have experimented a great deal with different forms and landed on watercolour as a medium of choice. I love the complexity of watercolour and the immediacy and unpredictability of the process.



image copyright, Mohit Bhandari
I’ve had some of my best ideas come from seemingly short 60-minute painting sessions. Ideas that have led to important answers to complex problems I’m facing in my work.

People inspire your art. When did this subject become the dominant focus of your artwork?


I largely gave up my love of childhood painting and drawing to pursue a career in medicine.


In 2018, while taking a short detour to hike during a work meeting in India, I came to the realization that I’d spent a lifetime [I was 50 years old] working at the expense of building my creative mindset. I decided to focus intensely on rebuilding my creative mindset with the belief it would have a great impact on my work, and my life. That day, I picked up a tin of watercolour paints and a small sketchbook and began painting.


I chose figurative and portrait art as my focus of work for two reasons. First, I was always nervous to paint people because it seemed too difficult. Refocusing on a creative mindset meant trying new things, taking some risks, and never fearing failure. Second, in my work and life, people are the source of my inspiration. Each face tells an infinite number of stories.


What motivates you to create? What is it about the creative process that moves you?


I believe deeply that creativity drives innovative ideas—and ideas are the currency of the 21st century. Great advances have always come from great ideas-and engaging in creative activities allows me to remove the noise of my day.


During the process of sketching and painting, I let my mind wander, and use any inspirations “of the moment” to guide the colours and the strokes. It’s a liberating experience, every time. I’ve had some of my best ideas come from seemingly short 60-minute painting sessions. Ideas that have led to important answers to complex problems I’m facing in my work.



image copyright, Mohit Bhandari

Who are your greatest artistic influences?


My art doesn’t necessarily show it now, but the work of the impressionists fascinates me. I don’t work in oils but the idea of “plein air” and “being in the moment because the moment is all we have” is a fundamental defining aspect of why I love painting.


The idea of creating impressions with paint is one I’m slowly working towards. Moving away from realism to impressionism is my goal. I’ve been working on painting what I feel rather than simply painting what I see.



You work primarily in watercolour. What is it about this medium that inspires you?


While I’ve formally never taken any art lessons, I have experimented a great deal with different forms and landed on watercolour as a medium of choice. I love the complexity of colours, the immediacy of the process and most of all, its relative unpredictability.



image copyright, Mohit Bhandari


Are there any other mediums that you have been curious about and that you’d like to try?


I had the privilege recently of watching two local Master plein air artists, Michael Brennan and Peter Cheung. I would like to give oils a try.


And by the way, the art community is an amazing one. Neither Michael nor Peter knew me but were so gracious to invite me to a plein air session at a local park on a cool winter morning. I will never forget that day.


Art and Science are inextricably intertwined. My career as a surgeon and scientist has been enriched by art.


What effect does art have on your life? On your work?


I have taken a pledge to T.H.I.N.K.


Try new things

Have fun

Invest in the 20% of things that give me 80% of my life’s joy

Never fear failure

Know its okay to start again.

My art has become a cornerstone of my ability to T.H.I.N.K. each week. Art provides all the elements that make my life meaningful-and in turn, has resulted in greater advances in my work.


Art and Science are inextricably intertwined. My career as a surgeon and scientist has been enriched by art.


A study published in 2008 found that Nobel prizewinners were more likely than other scientists or members of the public, to have creative hobbies. These scientists were about 1.5 times more likely to actively pursue arts and crafts than were members of the US National Academy of Sciences. Whether painting, poetry or playing the piano—art is a building block of creativity for their work.


Creativity is the cornerstone of invention- and reinvention.

image copyright, Mohit Bhandari
For me, the message of building a creative mindset is fundamental to being able to take on the challenges of the future.

In your role as president of the Canadian Orthopaedic Association, you frequently give presentations that also touch upon the role that creativity plays in life and success. Why would you recommend to others that they take up a creative pursuit?


In my 40s, I focused on speaking about research and the importance of ‘thinking Big.’ In my 50s, the only message I wish to share with my peers and students is “it takes courage to look in the mirror and say I’ve wasted enough time. Today, I change. Today, I begin my journey to find my 20%.”


For me, the message of building a creative mindset is fundamental to being able to take on the challenges of the future. The truth is, there is one certainty—the world in the next 20 years will be nothing like it is today. So, we all will have to develop the skills to reinvent ourselves. Creativity is the cornerstone of invention- and reinvention.



image copyright, Mohit Bhandari

In 2020 the Art Gallery of Ontario offered a program to overworked doctors on the art of looking deeply at works of art as a way of managing stress. In your own experience, how beneficial do you believe this kind of programming to be?


Two words. Extremely beneficial. And quite frankly, I wish we could have started this years ago. Every human is born with a creative spirit. We all look back at our childhoods and remember the things we used to love to do but gave up in pursuit of something—whether education or work, or both. The truth is, everybody has the creative spirit but for many, this light is dim.


Programs that reinvest in art are undoubtedly going to re-energize countless doctors to rethink their way of life—and if for a moment, imagine a different way of living.


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To view more work by Mohit Bhandari visit https://www.instagram.com/mobhandari/