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The Art of Drawing When One is Blind or Has Low Vision
With my hand, I touch the outside, or contour, of a small ceramic jug, a container for cream. I slowly trace the curve of the rim, continuing to the pointed lip. I put down the jug, and pick up a piece of charcoal or a soft pastel. I draw round curves, recreating what I see in my mind's eye, moving my hand across the paper, keeping pace with my inner vision.
I return to the small jug and begin again; tracing the contours of the round, squat body. But alas, when I try to return to the spot on the paper to begin drawing again, I have lost my spot! I cannot find it on the page. For I have low-vision and I just see some disconnected lines. I must devise a method to go back; perhaps if I put down the piece of charcoal to mark my spot? Yes, that works. I return to the small jug and begin again bit by bit I recreate the form, through touch, absorbing the shape, and then drawing it on the paper. Always keeping the pastel on the page to mark my spot, because if I don't I may not find it again.
Years ago when my vision was better, I used to love drawing the contours of objects, the human figure, both nude and clothed with my eyes. My eyes would slowly follow the contours of what I was looking at and then, I would recreate what I saw on the paper.
With the challenge of drawing with a vision loss, I am seeking new ways and techniques to draw. I've been attending several museum programs, and art-making workshops, that help me experiment with new techniques and materials. These programs can be very helpful to those who are blind or who have low-vision who would like to explore the world of art.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is providing a series of free lectures and art-making workshops at the Andrew Heiskell Library, for people who are blind or who have low-vision. The lectures include verbal descriptions and touchable images. I recently attended a workshop there called Over, Under and Around: Movement in Art. With a class of about 13 adults, who were either blind or partially sighted, I explored the movement of such works as "The Dance" by Matisse and "Starry Night" by Van Gogh. We then experimented with a technique of drawing with a pencil into a soft Styrofoam based material, where we could feel the movement of our lines as we drew. Then the drawing was printed on paper, creating a high-contrast image of our work.
The next program at the Andrew Heiskell Library in this series is called "MoMA presents an Introduction to Contemporary Art." Saturday, May 18 from 2:30 - 4 p.m.
In addition, I'm excited about another art program to be held at the Andrew Heiskell Library. Seeing with the Senses: A Celebration of Art for Those with Low Vision and Blindness. This will be an afternoon of art-making workshops, verbal description and touch tours provided by staff from three museums: The Metropolitan Museum, The Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of Art.
Another wonderful program, Seeing Through Drawing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, gives people with vision loss an opportunity to work in an actual studio environment. Here, we experiment with tactile drawing methods, such as using puffy paint that lets us feel the lines of our drawing after it dries. Students also go into the museum galleries, where we perch on little stools with our drawing boards, listening to verbal descriptions of major works of art as we draw our perception of the artwork.
These programs are invaluable to those who are blind or with low vision who want to experience and create art at the New York Public Library by taking advantage of the expertise and knowledge of art experts from the world-renowned museums we are lucky to have in the New York area.