Art has been apart of John Bramblitt’s life ever since he was a child, but it wasn’t until a series of severe seizures left him permanently blind, that he decided to try his hand at painting.
“I painted because it was my way of dealing with the trauma that I was going through; art had always been my lifeline.”
A full year passed before John discovered a way he could draw and paint, and it was during that year that John sank into a deep, and what seemed like inescapable, depression. Having always been an extremely visual person, John felt like he had lost not just his vision, but also all his dreams for his future. When he discovered a way to draw and paint he was filled with hope, and described it like “a ray of sunshine coming into a world that had permanently been darkened.”
So how did he do it?
John is a self-taught painter that went through a lot of trial and error while developing his method of painting without sight.
“Basically what I do is replace everything that the eyes would do for a sighted artist with the sense of touch.”
Raised lines that John can follow with his hand, lines typically made from fabric paint, help John find his placement on the canvas. Noting the difference in texture between different paints, as well as touching paint tubes that are brailled, help John identify one color from the other.
He even uses touch to get a realistic, visual representation of his subjects. The method John uses is known as “touch to sight,” and it allows him to “see” his subjects with his hands, rather than his eyes. So why all the dogs?! John is constantly inspired by one of his favorite subjects (and ours too)– his guide dog, Echo.
“There is a misconception, one that I too suffered from when I was sighted, that in order to understand something and visualize it accurately it required eyesight.”
Since John’s first art show, he has been the subject of multiple television, magazine, and radio interviews, as well as two award winning documentary shorts. He has sold his work in over twenty different countries, and has published a memoir documenting his journey and success. John also provides free art workshops with adaptive techniques for those with disabilities, to people and neighborhoods without access to art instruction. In recognition for this service he was awarded three Presidential Service Awards.
John considers himself an artist, not necessarily a blind artist, (at his first show, he didn’t even mention that he was blind).
“The blindness and epilepsy are parts of me that are considered disabilities, but they are just some of the characteristics that comprise me as a whole.”
John hopes that his story will remind others not to focus on their limitations, as well as provide comfort to anyone suffering from depression, no matter the circumstance.
To read more about John, and to see additional examples of his amazing work, checkout his website.
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