Lisa Fulmer

Art feeds the nurse … or does nursing feed the artist?

Art feeds the nurse … or does nursing feed the artist?
Michele Browne painted “Eurydice” after a busy day at the hospital.

Lisa FulmerMichele Browne enjoyed two six-month backpacking trips overseas before completing her degree in environmental science from UC Berkeley. After graduation, she taught English in Wuhan, China, for more than a year.

“I’d say it was clear back then that I had no idea what to do with myself,” Browne recalls.

After returning from China, Browne went to nursing school at the University of San Francisco.

“Now that was an excellent decision,” she says. “At the time, I figured I could keep gallivanting around the world while working as a nurse – so I started a family and we moved to Turkey.”

When Browne came back to the East Bay after about four years abroad, she specialized as an ICU nurse for burn victims. “I’ve completely enjoyed nursing for the past 30 years,” she says.

Not an artist in the strictest sense

Although she’s always been artistic, “she never considered herself an artist “in the strictest sense of the word.”

“I didn’t really dive into my art until my sons were grown,” says Browne, who moved to Concord four years ago – after her youngest son left for college.

“I fell into my first watercolor class by accident. While I was staring at the class list trying to make a decision, an instructor recognized me as being her nurse once, so she encouraged me to join her class,” she says. “That was like providence. I’ve kept moving forward in watercolor. I also work in mixed media and ceramics.”

Browne’s favorite thing to paint is people.

“It’s probably because I stare at bodies all day as a nurse. I try to go toward the abstract, but sometimes my art turns out looking more realistic,” she says. “I’m also motivated by a song or book passage. I usually like to have words in my art.”

Art skills and nursing

As a Certified Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse (CWOCN), she uses her art skills all the time. “I know it sounds strange, but when I’m trying to figure out a patient’s particular complication, I know that my creativity and my sense of shape and color makes a difference and improves my care.

“My art is also my own therapy on many levels,” she continues. “It helps me clear my head, like a personal purification ceremony.”

Browne joined the Concord Art Association (CAA) about a year ago and just this month became a member of the board of directors. “I believe in participation and giving back,” she says. “Just as nursing is an asset to my life beyond measure, making art is a very satisfying asset as well.”

CAA encourages visual artists of all styles and skill levels to join, as well as supporters of the local arts community. Visit to learn more about membership benefits and upcoming programs.

Lisa Fulmer is a marketing consultant, published author and a community arts advocate.