To state the obvious, painting is that art form which completely requires a visual medium. So, in order to work as a painter, being able to see is pretty much the foremost thing an artist needs. But, then there are some glorious artists who are visually challenged, and have painted some awe-inspiring masterpieces.
While there has been much speculation over the years as to whether certain famous painters were colour blind (Vincent Van Gogh being one such example) less coverage has always been given to those artists who have made great art while being diagnosed as blind or visually impaired. Let us try and explore some of these great artists from across the globe.
British artist, Keith Salmon was born in Essex, UK, in 1959. Keith studied fine arts and after graduating in 1983, he worked as a sculptor and painter for many years. But, in 1989, when he was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, his eyesight deteriorated and he eventually went blind. But, this setback did not demoralized Salmon, it only furthered his artistic vision and his will to paint. The contrasting landscapes that he has created has inspired and informed his fine art paintings. His landscapes are beautiful abstract creations, defined by a strong use of colour and fine and detailed brushwork.
Michael Williams is an American artist, born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1964. Williams, first became interested in art while watching his mother, who was an artist too. Being inspired by his mother’s splendid landscapes, Williams trained himself and quickly moved on to painting. But, as a teenager he was diagnosed with Stargardt's disease which degenerated his eyesight. Despite losing much of his vision, Williams continued to draw and won a number of awards and accolades. When Williams is asked about his impairment, he says that, “just because you’re limited in sight, you don’t have to be limited in insight.”
Epic Vision from Crosstown Arts on Vimeo.
Sergej Popolsin was born in Russia in 1964. He grew up in Siberia and as an adult attended art school. But, due to some personal problems and mandatory military services, Popolsin was unable to complete his schooling. In 1990, he attempted suicide. He survived, but suffered a serious head injury that left him blind. While still recuperating, Popolsin started training on how to draw and paint. One of his unconventional method is that, he sticks pins into the canvas and uses that as a visual marker in order to orientate himself in terms of space and shape.
Sargy Mann was a British artist, born in 1937, in Hythe, United Kingdom. It was in his mid thirties that Mann started to go blind, due to cataracts present in both of his eyes. On his 68th birthday, Mann woke up and found that he was completely blind. In spite of this, he carried on with his life’s work as a talented painter and it was during this time that he was most successful in his art work. His paintings have been purchased by Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day Lewis and a large painting sells for about $75,000. The artist sadly passed away on April 5th, 2015.
Benode Behari Mukherjee
Benode Behari Mukherjee was born in India, in 1904, with one eye totally blind and the other myopic. Being visually impaired he was not able to attend traditional schools and later, in 1919, he went to art school and started taking interest in painting. But, in 1954, his already poor eyesight started deteriorating further and after an unsuccessful surgery for cataract removal, he was left completely blind. After losing what little sight he had, Mukherjee continued to paint, draw, and sculpt using what he referred to as his inner eye. Mukherjee passed away in 1980 and is considered a legend in Indian modern art and he is one of the visually impaired painters to ever live.
Jeff Hanson is an American artist, born in 1993. Hanson was a healthy baby when he was born, but as he aged his parents discovered that he had neurofibromatosis and it created a tumor in his brain that was causing him to lose his sight and stunted his growth. In the midst of this, Jeff started to paint postcards that is when people started asking for duplicates, which led to his business really take off. The strong colour palette and impasto painting technique is what immediately strikes on seeing his paintings. Jeff’s paintings hang in the homes of art collectors across the globe including Sir Elton John, Warren E. Buffett, John Cena, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and many others touched by his unique style.
Esref Armagan was born in 1953 in Turkey. He was born with one eye that was underdeveloped and the other one was totally non-functional, that meant he was blind from birth. Despite his visual impairment he started painting at the age of 8. By the time he was 18, Armagan started painting on full sized canvases. Armagan is able to draw things as if they are fading into the distance and he can even draw objects in three dimensions, which scientists thought was impossible for someone who has never had sight. Armagan is considered as remarkable because of his use of color, shadow, composition, perspective and scale.
John Bramblitt is an American painter, born in 1971, in El Paso, Texas. Bramblitt’s work features bright arrays of colour and classical American iconography. He went blind in 2001, just as he was turning 30, due to complications from epilepsy. But, that hasn’t stopped him from making art and being an inspirational figure for disabled rights. He is a recipient of three Presidential service awards for the innovative art workshops that he runs.
Hal Lasko was an American artist, born in 1915. He served in World War 2, where he had a job planning bombing raids. After the war, he lived in Cleveland and worked as a graphic designer. After his retirement, Lasko’s grandson showed him Microsoft Paint on a computer that his family bought him for his 85th birthday. Hal Lasko made beautiful works of art using the program and what makes Lasko’s work even more impressive is that when he created amazing pictures on Paint, he was in his late 80s and 90s and was legally blind due to wet macular degeneration. The only way he could see things clearly is to look at them sideways. Lasko’s work is described as a cross between pointillism and 8-bit. He had his first exhibit in February 2014, in Cleveland. Sadly, on July 6th of the same year he passed away at the age of 98.