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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What It Means for an Artist to be Blind?

Foggy Bay South By Michael M. Michaelson

Only those that are blind can truly grasp or understand what it means to be partially sighted or totally blind. Even among those that live with physical limitations, and have vision problems, there is a different view among them within the realm of sight. For each individual person who does live with this limitation sees his own personal problem or disability for what he or she knows personally. For a totally blind person is in a far different position than from a person who might be considered to be blind but still has some visual ability.

I recently came to fully grasp this after reading a book called, “Hero’s Of Courage.” I am considered blind by society but still have a little of my sight available to me. The stories I read were about people who were totally blind, with zero sight, nothing but nothing, no light, no shadows, no objects, and no color whatsoever. Now while I was listening to this book, I so happened to be painting a large canvas. Of course my work certainly has its limitations in my ability to create exactly what I see in my mind onto the canvas. Although with all the tricks and technical moves, arrangements, settings, special tools that I have devised, odd measurements of my own design and trying to get it right, I personally know I’m blind in my own understanding of my limitations with vision. However, after hearing the many incredible stories of artists who had far more problems than myself and still managed to succeed; well, somehow I began to realize that my limited sight was as nothing, and it was as if I had plenty of sight in comparison to those who were absolutely sightless. I not only felt a guilt of sorts, in saying that I was blind, but actually became extremely thankful that I was able to see just enough to express myself with paint and brush.

Now along the way, I have had conversations with those who are totally blind and when you let them know you do have some sight and are still considered blind, its as if you suddenly became an illegal and felt as though you had imposed yourself into their personal world. It felt like I was stealing their identification of Blind. I felt that they thought that it was unfair, that I would use the title of blind, when in reality, when my sight was in actuality, only in a state of difference, compared to normally sighted society. I realized that there is no comparison of being totally blind to having at least a glimmer of shadow or possible variances of light. Therefore, even though I am considered blind, I have gained a great respect for all those absolutely blind people who think to be or call themselves and have established themselves as artists!

Each blind artist is a totally independent creator of art. That individual artist is his own machine, designed over many years. Every part of that life was an experience that no other person could experience in the same way. Even if identical twins were born blind, and both grew up right next to one another, and both became artists, their work and perceptions, would and could not be the same. Every human mind is different and no two thoughts can be the same, thus each blind artist is his own individual creating machine.

What feelings does an artist have? Again, this depends upon many circumstances. If an artist was born totally blind and never knew color or had the opportunity to see anything out there in the world, of course his perceptions will be dictated by his feelings, her emotions and through these feelings they would express their imaginations onto or into their works.

Now if an artist grew up in a ghetto and knew only poverty and difficult times and had only experienced or lived a life of survival, and now add blindness into this equation, that blind artist might turn out to create nothing but paintings of his perception of ill will or evil and dark experiences. Or maybe through his imagination escape into a world of colors, trees and flowers, even though he has never seen such things.

I cannot speak for any other artist about their feelings but only relate to my own. For there are feelings present when creating a work. The feeling begins long before paint, or tool is ever applied to a canvas or a work. I say that an artist is using a media to express nothing but feelings to another. If an artists is talented or somehow manages to touch others with his feelings, and others can relate to them then that artist has succeeded as a transporter of feelings, a messenger of emotions and a creator of perceptions. This still does not calculate out to success or a reputation.

I personally would count success as transforming ones feelings into another media, such as expression or perceptions equaling Payment! But that is my view, at this time or stage in my struggle with making it happen and to reach that place where my perceptions of existence might be considered to be of some value.

Oh this thought might hit some as a slander or mark against a so called free spirited and dedicated artist. But you might have fun spending your time and life in expressing your feelings, and people might give you some credit and pat you on the back but when they are willing to take money out of their pockets and put it into your hand for your expressions, feelings, emotions, time, talent and efforts, then you can somewhat measure your success as an artist. Otherwise your only a hobbyist.

An example of this might be that one day your sitting along the beach painting the scene and along comes a few people to observe you. After a few minutes of conversation and them looking at your work, one man says, “I really like that, and asks you how much you would like to sell it for?” You shrug your shoulders and the man goes on, “Hey, I’ll give you $1000 in cash right now for your work.” Even if you did not accept the offer, this person just validated your perceptions, your feelings and has lifted you up onto the plain of artist. I have not known to many artists that would not accept this exchange and measure it as some type of validation of being an artist.

I must laugh at those individuals that tell me, that one day, maybe after I’m dead, I’ll become a famous artist. That might be great for those who have possession of my works, but if I were not able to even buy a loaf of bread and possibly maintain a standard of life with my work during my own life time, it does not do me any good. If I were an architect or a landscaper and could not make a living using my talents and getting paid to express my feelings, what good then, is it to consider myself an architect or a landscaper? Imagine someone saying, “Hey when you die, we’ll take a look at your drawings and go look at one of your gardens, but for now, we have no intention of paying you for your works!”.

An artist might get nothing else but personal satisfaction from his works but the minute he thinks to sell his creation, he is measured, tested and his work is then put up for criticism. This is where the real feelings come into play. For if a person considers himself an artist, (blind or not), his feelings are now up for criticism and for sale. If no one wants his expressions, then without a doubt, his efforts are personally viewed with a very different perspective. Rejection will definitely play a role in the artists feelings. If his existence depends on his work, he better be prepared to starve with his emotions or to thrive with his feelings.

Feelings are what makes a work acceptable. I feel that a work should actually make a person stop, look and wonder. In my thinking, if someone can walk by your work without being forced to look at it or drawn to it by a feeling or for some reason or another, then somehow the artist has not yet learned to truly get his feelings into his work or onto the canvas.

I speak here of an artist who is attempting to sell his work. If someone is just wanting to use art as a process of meditation or as a hobby of expression that is different. His feelings are his own, they are not up for criticism or for sale or trying to impress others or touch another sol. The second that an artist wants someone to appreciate or offer criticism or desires some sort of recognition, that person, enters into a much different area of being an artist. If a child creates a finger paint project, and brings it home to share with family and wants some recognition, well, that little sol is learning to express itself in exchange for something. Few humans can create something without wanting approval. Depending upon an artists level of feelings, this energy will force that person into a higher degree of creativity.

No matter how we view this, feelings of an artist are one of the most important part of his creative powers. Skill can be developed but those feelings will determine every aspect of the artists work. Now, take a blind or partially sighted artist and imagine the feelings involved?

For a blind artist, no matter his particular field of work, the measure of feelings has to be much more intense. The challenge alone has already stirred up an ocean of feelings. There is so much more to a work from a blind person. If you could measure the brush strokes in levels of vibration, a work by a blind person would be an earthquake, compared to a trimmer, by a sighted artist.

So now, what it means for a blind person to be an artist is so much different and without any question, the challenge is a thousand times greater. For a blind or partially sighted or even for a handicapped or limited individual to set sail onto the ocean of art and hope to reach a destination without getting lost or being shipped wrecked is one of the great accomplishments in this life of challenge.

Anyone can declare themselves to be an artist, anyone can create something, but it takes a very special person, a very serious and determined soul to embark on such an oceanic journey as being a blind creator of true art!

A blind artist stands naked before the judges, with all his feelings exposed, and open to more than just criticism. That same energy in a blind person could make him an Olympic champion in the sports world, or a top mountain climber among mountaineers, but few will ever realize the depth of a blind artists over all abilities to begin and finish the journey as an artist.

When you sighted observers look or study a work by a blind or partially sighted person, please look into the depths, count the layers of feelings that might not be seen with the human eye and know that when you view a work by a blind person, your seeing a journey of great challenge. So Ttake the Journey and buy the ticket unto greater and deeper perceptions!

Michael M. Michaelson has created http://www.ticktalk.net and http://www.outofsightcreations.net, 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.

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