Saturday, 15 July 2017
Artist creates stunning watercolour paintings despite being blind
A talented watercolour artist has learnt to paint stunning landscapes – despite being blind. John Mitchell, 58, developed a love for landscapes and geometric shapes in his 30s but was forced to put his canvas down when he developed a mystery illness. But almost 20 years later, when he was diagnosed with complete tunnel vision, that left him with a tiny amount of sight. When he was recovering from at home on the sofa when he was inspired to brush off the dust on his paintbox.
The registered blind artist, who now has no peripheral vision at all, uses a white stick to get around but can see clearly enough to see the colours in front of him. His blindness forces him to paint smaller landscapes and he is unable to draw a straight line.
John said: “I first started doing some art in the 80s when my vision was absolutely fine and then I used to paint lots of very abstract geometric shapes but when my sight started to deteriorate I stopped for a very long time.
“In the early 2000s I developed a mystery illness that doctors never quite got to the bottom of and I spent a lot of time on the sofa recovering.
“It was about the time Channel 4 were showing their Watercolour Challenge and it got me thinking that maybe it was time to get the paint box out again.”
John, from Fetcham, Surrey, has collaborated with other blind artists on projects for the Royal National Institute of Blind People and said people are often surprised to see a blind man painting.
He said: “I have tunnel vision so there is a very small part in the centre of my vision where I can see perfectly fine but I have no peripheral vision at all.
“I do quite small paintings because of that, not miniatures, but small paintings as I would find it much harder to do bigger ones.
“I normally paint landscapes as I tend to try and avoid straight lines.
“With landscapes people don’t notice as much if a line is not exactly straight. If I tried to draw a straight line across the canvas normally, it would just be way off.”
He added: “I went up to a painting workshop over the weekend and people are always very surprised when they see me come in with my white stick.
“You get all kinds of questions, most of which I have heard a lot of times before, and people are always very interested to watch me to see if I am any good or not.”
“It really depends on what sort of sight problem you have and different people need to experiment to find out what works for them.”
John, from Fetcham, Surrey, and is proud to display his paintings at the Leatherhead Theatre, the first time he has exhibited as a solo artist.
“In the past I have produced art for a calendar that the RNIB created where it is all done by visually impaired artists, and there are all types of conditions represented in that.
“I think when you get to the stage of a painting where it starts to look like what you set out to paint in the first place, that can give you a lot of satisfaction.
“I have also sold a couple of bits of work at some of the club exhibitions I have done, so that reassures you that they can’t be bad if people are paying to buy them.”