Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but what happens when you can’t see? You make up for sight in many other ways.
Chris Knowles and the Visually Impaired Art Group that meets once a week in New Glasgow set out to create masterpieces without ever seeing it themselves.
Knowles started losing his sight from diabetic complications at age 17. When he was 19, he completely lost his sight. For a teenager having just lost his sight, Knowles took the loss hard and found himself not wanting to leave the house.
“From then until about a year ago I didn’t go anywhere,” Knowles said. “It played a lot on my mental health.”
He added that a lot of his feelings had to do with pride as well as he didn’t think that there was anything in the county for those with vision loss. It is hard to ask for help sometimes, he said.
Knowles found out about the local art group for those with vision loss through a nurse who helps him when he goes for dialysis.
“I thought about it, but I thought being blind would have an impact,” Knowles said about trying art after his vision loss.
This April will mark one year since Knowles joined the group and he has tried much more in a year than he thought he would have the chance to since his vision loss. He has since done tactile colouring, made a braille book and much more.
“The first time I came here I was nervous,” he said. “When I found out there was more to art than painting a canvas I was more interested in art.”
His approach to art has changed along with his vision loss; now he is seeking more tactile projects like clay, ceramics and more.
“I have to sit and think about it, I have to touch the canvas,” Knowles said of his creative process. “I have ten fingers so I guess I have ten eyes.”
Knowles said the classes taught him not only about a community for people with vision loss in Pictou County and that he can expand his horizons with art, but it has also taught him patience. “I was not a very patient person,” he said.
He finds that the art program helps with stress relief as well as more socialization. Recently, Knowles and other participants of the group were each encouraged to come up with a project that the whole class could make. Knowles came up with the idea of creating paper mache formed around masks or balloons.
“Even though it’s messy it’s blind-friendly,” smiled Knowles.
After having a year under his belt with this new group and new experiences, he encourages others who may face vision loss to try out new things like art.
“Just get out and try it — you don’t know until you try it,” he said. “There is people out there that will help.”