Painting with a Vision Impairment

At the age of 6, I was diagnosed with a degenerative eye conditions called Stargardts. The condition left me legally blind. Despite my limited vision, I still pursued my passion for painting. You can too.


Painting is more than just a visual experience. For many, it is a sensory experience. There are countless famous artists that experienced vision loss and continued to paint. Claude-Oscar Monet had cataracts that impacted his vision for most of his life. In fact, experts agree that Monet’s unique style can be attributed to the shift in his color palette choices after his vision began decreasing. Edgar Degas began experiencing vision problems early in his life, at about age 36. To account for his vision changes, he switched his medium from oils to pastels. The pastels required less precision. If you compare his earlier paintings, you notice broader brush strokes and less fine detail in his later paintings—both styles equally beautiful. Rembrandt van Rijn was also no stranger to vision loss. However, many believe that his lack of binocular vision played a role in his phenomenal use of light and shadow to show depth in his work.


There are many ways you can still paint even if you’ve been diagnosed with a vision impairment. I use low vision devices to help me. Talk to your doctor about spectacle-mounted telescopes or portable electronic video magnifiers. Like some of the artists mentioned above, you could switch your medium. Instead of using oil paints, try pastels. Focus more on broad strokes instead of fine details. You could also switch up your subject. If you’re accustomed to painting portraits, try landscapes or abstract paintings.


Your space is also important. Aim for a comfortable, well-lit space. If you can paint so the sun is shining on your canvas from directly behind you, you will find it may be easier to paint. A task lamp would work as well. Some painters find it is easier to paint on a slanted surface. You may also want to label your supplies in braille so you can easily identify them.


I hope you will find a way to continue to pursue your passion for art.


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