The first thing one sees upon entering Dr. Shereene Idriss’ New York dermatology office is a striking painting of a woman’s face, done in a pointilist style and hung above the receptionist’s desk.
While Idriss is a sought-after cosmetic dermatologist whose patients are said to include models Emily Ratajkowski and Ashley Graham, she’s also an accomplished artist whose favorite pastime is painting. No surprise given the similarities between the two: Both painting and her profession require appreciations of color and symmetry, with the caveat that dermatology is less meditative.
“It’s a form of my own art,” Idriss said of working with patients. “You start sculpting and molding, priming [the skin] and fixing it, looking at color, at texture, at proportions.”
Part-dermatologist, part-influencer (@shereeneidriss and @pillowtalkderm on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, where she boasts 36,000, 354,000 and 76,000 respective followers) and an artist of nearly two decades, Idriss started painting in medical school.
“Everything in my life happened serendipitously, and the same happened with painting,” she said. “I was in school and completely overwhelmed. I lived at my parents’ home, and my oldest sister was dabbling in some canvases. I needed five minutes to myself, took some canvases and random brushes, and sat in my garage until 2 a.m. painting. I didn’t want to stop.”
Since then, she has set up a thriving practice — but never lost an appreciation for art. Her office is home to numerous pieces, including works by Gray Malin, Mel Bochner, Gina Beavers, Jean Baptiste Bernadet, Jim Gaylord and Idriss’ great-aunt, Leila Chalabi. Both her taste and artistic style are vivid, and her attention to color mimics her dermatological approach. “Patients can get the biggest bang for their buck evening out their skin tone and color-correcting it,” she said.
Her greatest inspirations are comprised of post-modern and contemporary artists like Mark Rothko, Craig Allen and Roy Lichtenstein. Chuck Close is another favorite. “I love how he conceptualizes faces,” she said, “and I am obsessed with faces, doing what I do — but how he breaks it down into tiny pieces and tiny colors.”
Idriss has never been trained as an artist and takes a stream-of-consciousness approach to her own work. “I don’t think ahead of time, it all just comes out,” she said. “There is no premeditation, but I’ll look back and ask, ‘How did Mark [Rothko] marry colors on his canvas?’ I’ll look at those pictures, I’ll Google and see how he did it, since I don’t have any technical background.”
She hasn’t let lack of formal training stop her evolution. “I have never taken an art class, which is a shame, because I’d love to learn some of the actual technicalities of it. Until a month ago, I only used acrylics, but I started dabbling in oils last month. I’ve always been scared of oils, because I’m very impatient with waiting for them to dry. Now, I have no time, so it’s a good thing to have to wait.”
To that end, Idriss’ practice — and robust social following — have kept her busy. “Dermatologists are the bridge of how to hold onto yourself throughout time. It’s not about creating drastic changes or changing your essence,” she said, adding that she focuses most of her digital content toward debunking misinformation.
“My goal is to empower people through that medium,” she said. “Hopefully my art and my practice publicly empower my patients so they feel better about themselves without changing.”
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