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blind artist

ART AS VOICE

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

I am naturally an introvert and have a tendency to be shy. At high school I was bullied by the other students and made to feel that it was dangerous to excel at anything or to speak up, especially not to speak up for myself. I was an easy target. We all know that teenagers will focus their intimidation and humiliation on those they perceive as different and/or weak.

As a teenager with a vision impairment, I was a perfect target.

At school, I developed ways to be small and silent and unnoticed. When it came to choosing electives, I made sure to stay out of the classes my primary tormenter took. The one class I took that didn’t follow these rules was art. Several of the girls who liked to make my life hell were in my art class.

In year eight, my art teacher didn’t even want me in her class. She believed that someone who was blind could not do art.

I spent most of the first half of the school year turning up for class and sitting, being ignored by the teacher, being made to feel invisible.

That teacher left and I stayed in the class with a new teacher. Mrs Kaminsky made sure I could participate in the class. She introduced me to oil pastels and showed me how to shade and blend and create pictures where others painted. She helped me hone and build on the sculpting skills I’d started developing in primary school. She gave me a way to have a voice. It was this class that kept me sane throughout school.

Mrs Kaminsky encouraged and nurtured my artistic voice by believing in me and encouraging me. 

Years later, coming back to art has given me back the voice I thought I’d lost forever.

When I can’t untangle my thoughts, I paint out the knots and snarls.

It is a physical thing, the movement of my hand, arm and body loosens the threads. The threads then have room and space to weave themselves into order.

When I paint out these tangles I feel my breath changes, my thoughts, that started the session as a pile of scattered and like leaves before a storm. These thoughts start to slow, to shift and eventually make sense again. I can paint out the problem and give me back my voice.

My paintings and sketches tell the stories I can’t get out in words. The stories that frighten me. That are too full of emotion that I’m afraid if I start speaking, they will explode and drown me.

I can be brave in my art, when I can’t be in the rest of my life. When I create, I am centred and present. Most importantly, I’ve got the strength and confidence to give voice to my experiences. The knowledge that my work is never going to be perfect, but will be uniquely mine, has quietened the perfectionist inside me. By taking away that fear of not being perfect, I can speak and share what’s inside me.

Art is my meditation and my voice.

-Sam Ogilvie

LIFE IN LOCKDOWN: SAM’S STORY

By | Art, Lifestyle

Hi, my name is Sam. I am an artist with a visual impairment.

I have been in lockdown for what feels like forever. Unable to complete many daily activities myself, because they require setting foot out in the world. A world that I don’t recognise, other than a place of science fiction and dystopian literature.

Sam before lockdown, taking part in one of Art Mania Studio’s resin workshops.

My art is keeping me positive and sane. Thanks to Fee and Art Mania Studio, I have already received care packs full of art supplies. One of the things in my first care pack was a mannequin, the torso of a woman. For the last few Tuesdays I’ve been connecting with Ashlee, one of our fantastic new teachers, via facetime. In these sessions I’ve been working on my mannequin.

This is a torso similar to Sam’s. This one has been painted by our teacher Ashlee.

The aim of the process is to use a multitude of textures such as fabric, paper, feathers, shells, to convey what this shattered, surreal world is making me feel.

At first, what drew my focus was the simple act of getting to work with my hands. Letting my hands tell me what to place where. After all, my hands are my eyes. And trusting my hands, especially in my art, makes me very present in the moment. It doesn’t allow my brain time to question the process.

For someone prone to anxiety and panic attacks, along with a tendency toward depression, my art grounds me. Grounds me, like nothing else can in this new world of unfamiliarity.

It’s also great for me to unpack my feelings, fears, expectations through the artistic process. It makes it possible to confront and deal with any negativity before it has a chance to manifest into a bigger, more unmanageable problem.

So this has become my world. Each morning I get up, have my very necessary and important morning coffee. Once this is done and emails are checked. I turn to my art. Often listening to an audio book while I work.

I don’t know what I would do without this process to keep me on a positive path. Nor do I know what I’d do without Fee and Dana and my weekly catchup with Ashlee. I strongly encourage you to give it a try.