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