My walk with blindness

A Visually Challenged Artists speaks about her interests in Arts and her Journey So far

Story of and By – T.V. Aishwarya Pillai

Think of the word “Painting”, what is the first thing that comes to our mind? Well, obviously, the beauty of colors, the strokes and a visual treat of creating a part of life that’s around.  In simple words it’s a visual art that combines with soul to bring alive beautiful creations.

But think of those who have blindness, can they enjoy this form of art like a sighted person?  You may say “No”, but you may change your opinion once you read this article.

A flashback to my life 12 years ago…. I see myself as a student aspiring to be a filmmaker.  So it goes without saying that art has always fascinated me, but unfortunately due to a brain tumor that I was diagnosed with, I lost my eye sight.  World simply fell apart in front of me and I just couldn’t do anything. Back then, besides losing my eye sight, I also lost my sense of hearing, smell, taste and I was heading for paralysis on my right limbs.  In addition, my doctor said I may only have 3 months to live.  “3 months? That’s all I’ve got to live this life?”  I used to lie down in bed thinking what has become of me.  But I was told that life gives us two choices; one is to sit and cry over your wound or get up despite the pain and walk ahead.  Perhaps I took the second route and it brought me where I am today.

It wasn’t an easy journey to rise up after the fall, it certainly took time.  Months passed by until I recuperated as my other senses except my eye sight were restored.  I had an urge to do something and not be a wasted space.  In 2012, I joined LV Prasad Eye Institute wherein I was trained on Assistive Technology.  It’s there where I learnt that when all doors close, one that’s meant for you will definitely open. I also realized that I am not the only one who is blind, but there’ are many others like me.  I became more confident and my zeal to make my life more meaningful was sparked here.

In 2013, I got a call from LV Prasad Eye Institute to join there as a Rehabilitation Counselor.  Ever since then I never looked back as life took a new turn since then.  Besides having the best team to work with, I counseled people who were like me, hopeless and in a state of shock.  I used to see my old self in them.  I used to tell them that they need to take that one step which will change their life for good and gave them all possible information that helped them become independent.  I cannot forget the moments when those people I had counseled would come back to us with a big smile and narrate to us the stories of what they have achieved.  It was simply an amazing experience to sit there and listen to them.

There was so much I had given up when I lost my eyesight; my ambition to be a filmmaker and my passion for art.  But I never thought that these would come knocking at my door once again.  Talking of filmmaking, I got opportunities at my work place to write scripts and direct awareness videos.  This certainly would not have been possible without my team who trusted in me and encouraged me to do more projects.  One such project was an audio movie for persons with vision loss titled “I’m Possible”.  What was different about it was that anyperson with vision loss could listen to it and comprehend it without anyone’s description.  My happiness had no bounds when it was released on 8th March, 2015.

I had no clue that one day I would get back to my passion of artwork as well. In 2018, I was invited to a painting gallery, wherein sadly I could not enjoy all those wonderful paintings as they were all two dimensional.  That’s when the idea of tactile painting came to my mind. I started reading  on this type of art and worked on it in a way that any person with vision loss will be able to do it themselves.  My first question was how would they perceive colors. I believe that every color has an emotion just like music.  For example, if I say “Red”, one would either think of passion or anger.  Similarly, if I say “Yellow”, it could remind us of happiness. So the description of colors in my world of blindness was through their associated emotion.  

My next step was how to make the paintings tactile.  I thought of many household material that one could use to add 3D effect to their artwork.  So that’s when I started using aluminium foil which could be shaped into any 3D object, layered with paper and then colored. I also used other secondary materials such as paper, beads, tissue paper, paper mash, etc as and when required.

The 3rd step was how one could color the foreground on the canvas; for example how will they differentiate the margin between the sky and the sea.  The solution was quite simple when I started using garbage  bag to cover one area while I painted the other area.  Then I glued all the tactile objects on the canvas, finally creating tactile paintings that everyone including persons with blindness  could enjoy.

So far, I created 15 paintings and my affair with painting certainly doesn’t seem to end there…….It’s only the beginning I’d say.  From the time I started doing tactile painting, I got an opportunity to participate in art exhibitions; one such event was “Art for Inclusion” by India Inclusion Foundation that displayed beautiful paintings of 8 persons with disabilities from across India.  The memories of it will still be close to my heart.

As I experimented and became bold with the use of materials and colors in my paintings, I was keen that people like me who cannot see should also enjoy this branch of art.  In my endeavor, I was able to train 16 persons with vision loss with the help of my team at my work place.  The master pieces these artists created were also displayed at an exhibition that was appreciated by many.

I am writing this down not with an intention to say “see how good I am or see what I have achieved”, but I want to give away a message saying that if you decide to take that one step, however difficult it might be, You will certainly walk a long distance.  When you stop by and look at your life, you will be surprised that you walked so far carrying a bundle of beautiful memories in your heart.

I believe that once you set your heart on something, nothing would be impossible and everything thereafter will certainly seem workable………….And……………..”It’s Possible “

Below are few glimpses into my works:

My blog on “How to paint when you are Blind” (Click on the link to read my blog)

Watch me talking about my latest painting “Blue Secrets”

Blue Secrets
Listen to “I’m Possible”, an audio movie for Persons with vision loss

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