How Blindness Changes: An Artist's Perspective

Arch Beach Mystery by Michael M. Michaelson

Well now, if you are a curious sol or a practicing artist or maybe a hopeful one, and you want to possibly understand how blindness might change an artists perspective, just attempt to first layout, then begin, and start, and finish an entire work in a dark, and in an unlighted room. No faire turning on the lights when you need to find a certain brush, mix special colors, use a drill to drill a hole, or use a hammer, or maybe staple a canvas together. Remember now, you cannot ever see the results of your work, you must depend on others to speak for you, and make a judgment upon your efforts. Now If you do look, only once, your out of the perspective game, for that is unfair. This first method would be for a completely blind person.

If you might wonder how a partially sighted person might see, well, maybe put on a pair of welding goggles and go to work. Or maybe do all your work with a tiny flash light. And you could always put on your grand mothers really thick glasses which will blur everything up real good and maybe make you dizzy in the meantime. Or how about taping and covering one eye shut, and then taping a toilet roll onto the other eye, so you have to see everything through its length and then turn down the lights real low. That might do it for starters. But toss in the fact that your just experimenting, while the impaired artist must work and live with his challenge everyday.

I once wrote a story about a martyr locked into a deep dark dungeon for 20 years. In order to really get the feeling or a better perception of what I was trying to say, I thought to lock myself into a tiny closet without any lights for a 24 hour period. About 6 hours in that dark closet gave me more than enough insight to what I wanted to write about. To tell you the truth, I could not deal with it and cut my vigil short.

What really influences perspective or perception in a blind artist? Everything! For myself, my blindness has effected, changed and influenced every aspect of my entire life. There is nothing that it has not touched. I became a hands on person. I developed a habit of touching things, and feeling everything, because I could not see or perceive detail. Thus, I would pick things up , feel the weight, determine their shapes and maybe some of the detail. Oh did I ever get in trouble when I would reach for something and accidentally knock it over. Do you know how stupid this made me feel. But again, after knocking over many things I sort of learned how to approach things in a new way. Then I actually developed a special way to reach out and find the object, and very carefully feel my way around, until I came up with a perception of the object in my mind. Therefore, my perception of touching something went through many lessons and every reach had to be calculated and thought through.

Many blind people will tell you that they had to learn how to see things that were not there. By this I mean that as children out on the playground on a nice spring day with the sky full of tumbling clouds, we would be looking up at the clouds and everyone would be pointing out shapes in the clouds. “Hey, look, there’s a dragon running across the sky,” someone would say. And sure enough, even though I could not see such a thing, in my mind I imagined a dragon running across the sky. I will tell you, my dragon was a whole lot better than theirs . For in a split second I could make mine any color, any size and even make it spit fire if I wanted to. And even after the clouds went away, I still had the fire spitting dragon in my mind.

But this type of perception did not work well when trying to grasp the concept of ideas being expressed on the board with written formulas, no, this did not work for me folks! Therefore, I somehow found the area of mathematics somewhat over whelming and to this day, numbers and me don’t work well together, especially if there are dollar signs attached to them.

Now growing up and walking home from school, I always had my head down. People would ask me what I was looking for and I finally realized that my vision was so limited, that I had to look down in order to see where I was going. Did I bump into anything, bet your life I did! Was I embarrassed when this happened, bet two of your lives, that I was. However, every little landmark along the way became measuring points for me, and the only real problems came when they paved the road anew, or cut down one of my landmarks. Of course this forced a physical perception and a different perspective into existence for me.

Because I could not see, I had to ask tons of questions about the simplest thing. I had to extract as much information out of an explanation in order to see or understand of what they might be talking about. Thus when it came time for me to tell my side of the story, the detail was so much greater and most of the time it was an over kill. This is why I became known as a long worded talker, and on and on I would go!

If only someone would have helped harness my imagination when I was a little person, and put it into art, or maybe writing, but instead, my imagination went wild in many areas. My perceptions and perspectives of things, events, and of people, and ideas were so often out of common proportion, that some told me that I should run for congress!

My views of things were mostly imagination and with this, my perceptions of things had to be measured out much more carefully. For I might misuse my imagination and therefore, distort a true perception, beyond what might be considered normal. Thus a self discipline came into existence.

Even though I was the most rebellious person you might ever know, somehow, an order had to be established in my life, because a basic order meant, being able to get along with the least frustration. An example of this was simply putting things into an exact place and when I needed that tool I would reach for it or open the drawer and it would be right there, until my little sisters used it and then my orderly world would be destroyed.

A blind person must have a good memory. Mine was developed early on. I could not reed a phone book and so had to remember maybe up to a hundred numbers of my friends. Many of my friends were amazed and often used me as their personal phone book when we were on the road. Did this memory work for me. Yes, it became a great tool for me. But it too was limited, for in order to remember someone, you must be able to se their face and fit it to a name. I had to now try and recall the voice to the name and this was not easy and didn’t always work for me.

My limited vision forced me to listen to every sound, count steps, measure distances, determine directions of the sun which gave me baring and I could pretty well get the best of sighted people out of dead ends and back to wherever they wanted to go.

I could give precise directions, with every little bit of detail. This was odd to some, but they found themselves reaching their destination, by using my signs and sounds and applying my perceptions into their visual awareness. An example of this was , Ok now, you will go past a large factory on the left, cross under a freeway and stay to the right over the river until you get to a signal and the shop is right there on the left hand corner. This is a simple one, for the factory could be heard, the freeway underpass was obvious, and the bridge over the river was long with a hollow sound, and stopping at a signal was normal and just remembering where the shop was from my last visit got them there without a miss.

I believe that I used up most of my brain storage capacity just in remembering directions. Clear to this day I can pretty well get you anywhere in the world. I invented the GPS long before its modern day existence.

It was much easier for me to identify shapes, rather than faces. And then imagine looking at a girls shape with the thought to identify her. And oh boy, did imagination ever get me in trouble. As time went by, women’s shapes changed and I forgot who they were, unless they spoke to me, just kidding here folks!

As I moved into the creative area I found that I thought very much different about how things might be arranged. I liked order and in time learned that the human perception in art has a real common sense structure to it.

Even though I could not see details or a lot of colors, I was able to use contrast to create perspective and even though my works were a little immature they still attracted some attention. But painting pictures could not pay my bills, nor feed my life style and when it came time to get married, hey, I had to start my own business. This was done in order to promote my life into a future that might be beneficial to both my wife and myself. Thus one day I found myself working for a landscape company who soon saw that I had an excellent mind on how to arrange things into both order and harmony and make them work for the customers.

I applied my limited art ability onto a larger scale when I started a landscape business. Why, a landscape business you might ask. Well, once my sight got so bad that I could no longer paint a good landscape onto the canvas, I decided to up the scale. Thus, I would create a very nice picture on a large scale and actually get paid for it.

In this I learned, how the mind relates to order, and how order relates to perspective, and how perspective is tied into perceptions. When the human eye is guided across a landscape, and the lines flow nicely, and everything is fit into the picture without confusion your mind sees harmony. But if something appears out of place there is a sudden break in the harmony and this impulse is sent into the brain and the brain registers it as something irritating and it becomes confusion. Therefore, the scene that the mind is looking at becomes unpleasant and if it is a work of art, you walk away with a impulse inside your mind saying, not right, don’t like it!

Blind or partially sighted people should have a lot of stories to tell about how their adjustments to life forced into existence a whole new perspective, and brought about a very different perception into their thinking. If we were to then apply these changes into a blind artists mind, then project those perceptions into his or her work, we would come up with a very different measure of expression. These perceptions should be appreciated far more than normal to the sighted. If the sighted viewers or judges of art would consider from where the work had come from, meaning from a blind experience, I feel that there would be a much greater understanding of a blind artists work.

But we know that this is how it does not work. For not until an artist attains some level of recognition does anyone really care what made the painting or work come into existence. The only thing that really counts up front is how the work appeals to the jury or to those carrying the check book.

If the artist has not attained the ability to somehow draw the human eye into the work and if the brain is confused or irritated, most likely there will be no sale or a place for that work.

However, there is no set rules for this mind harmony explanation. Because there are people who love to have their brains stimulated by confusion, irritation, battle and disruption to harmony, and so this type of art has now been developed into an entire realm of its own expression.

For a blind artist to create an object that can be handled is very different than a painting by a blind artist that cannot actually be felt with the hands. Every artist has a vision within his mind but it takes an incredible amount of intuitive ability to bring that intangible vision into the realm of reality. Even for a sighted artist, it is very difficult to bring forth his perception and create dynamic perspective but imagine a blind artist attempting to express perspective and create perception without being able to see any of this?

If, a blind or partially sighted person can achieve such a task, and the sighted observer can relate and actually perceive these perceptions, and enjoy them, then that blind person is more than an artist but a true communicator.

Think about how an artist alters human perspective? He achieves this with his own, inner ability, which is truly very different from the ordinary mind. I often think that a blind artist is like an alien who has come to this world to show the sighted, how to see beyond their sight through a special gift called, Perception!

Michael M. Michaelson has created and, using Freedom Scientific software. The sites serve as a creative outlet containing new stories for those seeking something a little different, and his on line art portfolio offers everyone the opportunity to purchase outstanding works by a blind artist.

Michael, along with his works of art enjoys self-publishing and has more than twenty-three of his own publications for sale, as well as many free reads and places for other writers to publish their works on these sites.


Saiako1 said…
Hi, I really enjoyed your article. What about the emotional coping process an artist would have to go through when losing their sight? I have been drawing and fell in love with art since I was a very young child. I think its the toughest dealing with going blind because I don't think I would enjoy art anymore when I can't see it. What are your thoughts about this?

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