Search Close Search
Page Menu

Christopher Baker - Hidden Talent - Cartooning

Christopher Baker, MD, Assistant Professor Radiology, UMass Chan Medical School
Christopher Baker, MD

Among the large and diverse group of individuals who collectively make up the Department of Radiology at UMassMemorial, there are hidden extracurricular talents and skill sets; extreme athletes, artists, dancers, designers, inventors, musicians, poets and writers. Recently we became aware of the cartooning talents of Dr. Christopher Baker. Several of Dr. Baker’s cartoons were included in the Arts and Humanities programs in both the American College of Radiology and the Mass Medical Society.

Dr. Baker discovered New Yorker magazine cartoons at a young age, while seated in the waiting room of his childhood dentist, looking for any distraction to the background din of the drill. He instantly fell in love with the single frame format and style of the likes of Charles Addams, Peter Arno and George Price. He became a lifelong student of cartoons. His collection of cartoon anthologies and series is extensive and up to date. He will always seek out used bookstores, during his world travels, searching their shelves for books of cartoons, many printed in other languages. “ It’s the universality of the gestures and subject choice, in the cartoons, that oftentimes transcends the caption; that renders them instantly understandable and funny.”

After college, before medical school, Dr. Baker began architecture school. This gave him an appreciation for perspective and proportion, as well as hours behind a pencil. In 2004, he started cartooning during his vacations, becoming more serious and focused over the ensuing years. He attended courses in life drawing at the deCordova Museum School, which gave him an appreciation for gesture and expression. It’s an ongoing process.

Christopher Baker, MD Cartooning
Christopher Baker - Artist at Work

Dr. Baker uses pencil, ink and watercolor to create his cartoons. With the goal to finally publish, he recently needed to learn Photoshop to polish his art and to create digital files for on-line submissions. It’s a constant learning curve, but he loves the process. It takes from 3-4 hours to create and draw a cartoon and then a bit more time to process it through Photoshop. He strives to create about 10 cartoons per month. He has been accepted as a contributing cartoonist to (Christopher Baker). He has found this experience both validating and instructional, receiving good feedback and critique. Another source of critique is his ‘Wet Ink Club’, a loose group of friends, family and acquaintances who review and hopefully give honest feedback, both positive and negative, on his hot off the press cartoons. He encourages them to be upfront when he misses the mark. Dr. Baker keeps a rejection collection, good drawings looking for a snappier, funnier caption (just like the New Yorker caption contest…there’s never just one caption.)

Dr. Baker believes that for him, cartooning has been incredibly therapeutic. Having worked in hospitals for many years, he is keenly aware of the fact that the workday can be very stressful. He believes in the “Laughter is the best medicine” philosophy of the French surgeon, Henri de Mondeville. In his daily practice, he constantly strives to “take the tension out of the room” with humor, and this has extended to his out of hospital life. “ I consider cartooning one of the highest art forms for its synthesis of art, the written word and timing. The really hard part is getting people to laugh; but there is nothing more satisfying than when they do.”

Dr. Christopher Baker is an Assistant Professor of Radiology in the Divisions of Breast and Abdominal imaging. His wife, his greatest inspiration, is a Nurse Practitioner in cardiology at Boston Children’s. They have a son who is a journalist with Al Jazeera in Qatar and a daughter who is a Broadway actress/dancer. As Dr. Baker says of his daughter, “If I can only muster the grit, determination, attention to skill and craft in my cartooning that my daughter lived to get on Broadway, I will eventually be a cartoonist for the New Yorker. Either way, it’s a fun ride.”