"Art is the only way to run away without leaving home" (Twyla Tharp)

Seeing ...

"There are two things in the painter, the eye and the mind, each of them should aid the other."
Paul Cezanne

This week I completed Assignment 12 and had a visit with my eye specialist.  Very productive!

As a very young thing I had a few problems with my eyes – one of them turned completely in when I was a baby .. consequently I was just a toddler when I had eye surgery to correct.  My absolute first life memory was of being at a children’s hospital – I must have been about three.  I wore glasses for most of my younger life when the options weren't great - glasses were not a fashion statement and the term 'four eyes' was a familiar taunt.

One of my first pairs of glasses!

 Unfortunately it didn’t go well at the time and  as a teenager I had eye surgery again which resulted in my eyes being straightened.   What I didn’t know is that the surgery corrects the appearance of the eyes but the problem with the eye/brain connection still exists – the failure of the eyes to work well in unison.

I have had troubles most of my life with my sight – I can focus on something, but very quickly the object moves … the eye starts to wander, just as when I was a child.   At a late age I met with a very astute specialist who made glasses with prescribed prisms – which trick the eye/brain connection into thinking the eyes are working together.  I have been using these glasses for three years – since I began this work.   When I began my journey with botanical art I would choose easier subjects because my eyes could not hold focus on the multi petalled or very tiny objects - it was exhausting work and I often ended up with terrible eye strain and migraines.  I was so keen to continue but I was concerned my eyes would just not cope with the finer detail.

Then and now ...

 When I saw the specialist  he was very impressed to see my eyesight had finally stabilized after years of deterioration.  He also felt that the work I was doing with botanical art had improved the strength of my eyes with all the exercise they were getting.   Such good news for me -  sight is priceless and I have struggled so much with it – my eyes are finally settling down at a time when I really need them to and hope for many more years being able to draw and paint.  I was a late starter,  have a lot of ground to make up and hope to spend many hours painting studies of nature.

Getting started ...

 I feel very blessed to think that having had so many problems with sight – I am still able to pursue a passion that depends on vision being as accurate as possible.     Our eyes are too precious to take a chance with or cut costs on treatment - wearing cheaper magnifying glasses only magnifies a problem.   I am so grateful to be on the path to seeing everything so much more clearly.

Perhaps that's why I choose bold subjects - it's a lot less effort to see them! 
 Bon Voyage assignment 12 - I will post the finished artwork soon.  
Packing for a very special trip now ...

Work in Progress ...

UPDATE - 5 years on - my eyes have stabilised well.  Mostly due to frequent visits with my eye specialists.  I always take in my latest artworks and in particular the designs which include intricate work like dissections, close ups etc to show just how finite we need to work.
He found this most helpful and has been able to prescribe glasses with bifocal lenses, the main section at reasonable painting viewing distance and the lower section for extreme detail work.  I also have another pair for general reading/painting at usual distance.  I also use a hand held magnifier on occasion.  I find this suits very well but it is also very important to do my exercises, learnt from a young age since the surgeries.  
Taking frequent breaks, looking off to the distance and seeing more peripheral vision and long distance to give my eyes a break to the close work often incurred with painting and computer work.
I also make sure I have frequent exercise and include upper body work to ensure good blood flow to the eyes and brain as they need the oxygen to work well in unison.  I also ensure I drink a lot of water as our eyes can become dry from constant staring at a subject, you just don't realise how long you look at details and wonder why your eyes are weary and dry.  Blinking often is a good way to keep things fluid, you would be surprised how rarely we blink when focussing on fine artworks.

© Vicki Lee Johnston

Many things combined can help with ongoing eye health, I learnt from a very young age how crucial sight can be and never take it for granted.  I do believe botanical art has helped to strengthen and stabilise my progress with the exercise they are given, just like any muscles, but it also can be attributed to taking good overall care of your health.  The eyes are the window to the soul and can also reflect our general health.


  1. Obviously botanical art is good for you :)
    Beautiful work, as usual!

    Well done on finishing the last assignment in such good time.

    1. Thank you Alena - you have been such a great support on this course. Good luck to you also with your last assignment before the Diploma works - and congratulations on having your Assignment 11 chosen to be in the student display at the SBA Exhibition in London - well deserved. Not long now ... :)

  2. Fantástico y enhorabuena, un saludo.

  3. What a great post, see how far you have come. It's great to hear that painting has had such a positive impact. Your latest piece is looking stunning, can't wait to see the finished result.x

    1. Thanks Jarnie - I am lucky to have such a good outcome with my sight. Thanks for the kind comments on the work - will post the whole piece after my trip. Yours is looking so lovely - my kind of colours :)

  4. Prismes help a lot..Glad your sight is good now, we just need to see your artwork to approve it..:-)

    1. Okay Manon will post it soon ... when my tutor has a chance to see it :)
      Thank you xx

  5. I totally relate Viki., after many eye dramas I'm so happy to be able to still take photos. Do you go to The Lions Eye Institute, Bill Morgan has saved my eyes many times. I've so enjoyed reading your last posts,it takes such a long time to come to terms with losing a special little friend, but the Gracie roses are a lovely way to remember her. Your drawing project sounds pretty intense, but as you say it might be just what you need at tis time. Oh yes, you have inspired me to plant a Wisteria, I,ve always wanted to, but thought our weather was too hot. Looking forward to seeing your finished project, take car.

    1. Thank you so much - love your photos and blog, such familiar sights!

  6. This is a great story Vicki - I had no idea that you had problems with your eyes. I would never have guessed looking at your stunning work. I love your latest piece. I have made it big on new tabs and it's stunning. You have a wonderful way of doing pink washes and veined petals Vicki.

    Glad your eyes are benefiting from the exercise :) Onwards and upwards now to the last hurdle! Best of luck xxx

    1. Oh dear Jess not too big I hope :) These pics are works in progress and hoping the finished piece is well received.
      Thanks for your wishes - now to the final three ...