Forget what you think you know about being blind. There are blind people designing clothing and staffing factories. There are blind chefs, photographers, and writers. Quite simply, if your idea of blindness is of a person completely limited in all they do, you’re the one without vision.
When John Bramblitt lost his sight, he thought his passion for painting would vanish too. But when he began experimenting, he found it was perfectly possible to create striking art without being able to see. Now, he makes his living as an artist and an art instructor.
Bramblitt grew up with epilepsy and later caught Lyme disease — a bacterial infection transmitted by infected ticks. Doctors think that the interaction between the two caused a series of severe seizures that resulted in brain damage, leading to a partial loss of hearing and a complete loss of sight. In the past, Bramblitt had used art as a form of therapy, and its absence hit him hard. He wasn’t ready to let it go.
“The idea of painting sounded crazy,” he says. “I thought I’d lost my mind. I didn’t know of any blind painters. My brain knew how to draw, and my hands knew how to draw. But, the eyes, the connection between the two, was lost.”
As he learned to navigate the world relying more heavily on his sense of touch, Bramblitt began to use that sense to navigate a canvas. He mixes different mediums in with his colors to separate them from one another. He felt his subjects to learn their contours. And his methods proved incredibly successful.
To date, Bramblitt’s art has been displayed in more than 30 countries. He received presidential awards in 2005, 2006, and 2007 for the free art workshops he designed to bring art instruction to people and neighborhoods that lacked access. And, he is the first blind person to paint a street art mural.
“Art isn’t about vision,” he says. “It’s about expressing — you know your ideas, your emotions — and having other people understand that.”