Blind Can Draw
E.J. GoldE.J. Gold
on the Blind Can Draw

Click here

Just a week ago, I woke up suddenly in the early morning hours -- still dark, almost dawn ....

The idea had sprung from some unknown higher inspiration ....

The Blind Can Draw.

And I knew how they could not only learn how to draw, but they could see their drawings and the similarly created drawings of other blind artists ....

All I had to do was to find the right products ....

A few hours later, I had breakfasted and headed into Grass Valley to give a 10:00 a.m. drawing class at Ben Franklin's. When I got there, I asked my friend Jamie if she knew of any product such as what I had in mind, and I described my wants. I drew out my handwritten list, prepared at the breakfast table half an hour earlier:

1. It has to be instantaneous and instinctive.

2. It has to produce a tactile drawing readable by the blind.

3. It has to be reasonably priced.

4. It has to be safe for the blind to use without sighted help.

5. It has to be easily portable and make into a small self-studio.

6. It must of course be non-toxic.

7. It should be very very easy to use with minimal instruction.

8. It has to give total tactile/visual feedback as the work is progressing.

9. It must be erasable and yet when finished, thoroughly stable.

10. The products from this medium should look totally awesome.

11. Other blind artists must be able to read the work precisely.

12. The sighted must also be able to appreciate the work.

"Okay," she said, and led me in the direction of a wall-full of tactile drawing mediums (not media, as you'd think it should be, eh?) ....

"But," she added, "if you really want to know the scoop on these, you should talk to Michal."

Michal is a she, and she is a way cool intuitive buyer who got this new product and had been to a demo of it at the Expo -- this new stuff that makes visible tactile drawings -- and she ordered it and got it on the shelves in her tactile arts department the very day before I was asking for it!!! I suspect angels at work here ....

So Michal spent some time going over the various products and giving me a demo on how each one worked, with explanations and examples of things she'd worked out with the medium. I was to say the least, astonished and pleased. I didn't have to make any of this...a product already miraculously existed that would make it totally easy and fun to teach the blind to draw and to see the drawings of others.

With painting, it's relatively easy; each pigment has its own texture, temperature, "feel" and "give"; someone trained in this can easily read paintings made by the sighted. But it's terribly messy to try tactile fingerwork on a canvas while actually painting it. Tactile exploration is best done on dry paint, especially if it's oils. With this medium, you can feel a "painting" while "painting". It's all in the use of strongly tactile "colors".

I soon figured out how to get the idea of drawing across using this product .... I could easily see how the concept could lead to exhibits for the blind with sighted blindfolded on a rope chain. I knew that if I could work out the obvious Big Kinks, the rest would follow.

What are the Big Kinks? Well, the really Big Big Biggest Kink of All is the difficulty in communicating how something we "see" translates into something we "draw". For instance, how would you explain to a person blind from birth exactly how to represent a wide panoramic landscape?

Yes, it boggles the mind. How do you get something across that is not tactile, not right at hand, not "feelable" with the fingers, such as a scenic vista. Sure, you can say "There are distant mountains ... and trees, and a lake and, oh, yes, a bridge over there," you add, pointing uselessly off to the right, and then remembering ... "uh, over there, to the right."

It just doesn't translate into picture. Images come, but it isn't the same for someone blind since birth. So you start small .... "This is a cube. Here's how we represent a cube in two dimensions." And you draw the cube in this wonderful new medium. And the blind art student's fingers dance over your drawing of a cube ... and the concept dawns. Then you go to other objects, feelable, touchable objects, one by one...I've worked it out so it takes about three lessons to get most of the basic drawing skills across.

Then for an Intermediate Level, I went to the craft stage. What this means is that the drawing is applied in some way to something. For example, it might be affixed to the top of a small treasure/trinket box.

Perhaps a mold is made and 25 to 50 rubbings are taken from the mold before the mold is struck (broken deliberately at the end of an edition of any multiple in any medium).

The Advanced Step of course would be a Group Show, inviting critics and public to an important showing of this new artist's medium and method.

Okay, I could see multiples of these things, and it seemed obvious to me that the products, whether singular or multiple, would be very acceptable and actually quite desirable art offerings within the general art community as well as within the Visually Impaired Community, of which I am a card- carrying member.

Oh, yes, I have serious visual handicaps ... Luckily, my family published books for the visually challenged and those books were redesigned for scan and simplicity. During my late teens, I learned about the problems of tunnel vision and many other impairments.

I learned that there is no such thing as "blind" .... there are varying degrees of blindness and severity of impairment. I've lost some, but not all, of my sight, and am and have been for over 50 years a working artist.

I also teach, but that's not to make income -- it's to pay back my teachers for what they showed me .... I regard it as my obligation to make sure that what they passed on to me will not be lost to future generations. That's my total motivation for teaching ... but the joys of seeing people fulfill their wildest art dreams and to see many of my students reaching professional status and the resultant self-esteem and freedom, frankly, that's the real payoff.

And that's what I want to see happen in the Visually Impaired community.

The toughest problem to beat was to give someone the opportunity to see their own art, not just hear from others, "Gee, that's great!" An artist wants to be able to appreciate his or her own art, if for no other reason, to strive to improve the art skills that are developing along the creative path ....

Well, that's the story. I hope you'll want to participate in some way. It goes without saying that many blind artists will never have the opportunity to explore this avenue without some financial help from somewhere.

I know that sooner or later someone will come along and see the value of this incredible art experience for the blind and visually impaired, and we'll get the funding we need to hire experts in the field and get this system organized and into the education systems for the blind and visually impaired.

I've made several dozen items which I offer as premiums to donors to our nonprofit 501(c)3 organization ... but I'm not waiting for funding to show up ... it might never. I'm rolling ahead with the program at my own expense ... I happen to be on a small fixed retirement-age income (I'm a bouncing, young 66) and I'll do what I can to support the Blind Can Draw Project for as long as I'm able.

I do original drawings in this tactile medium. The drawings are sent to you in a slim transparent storage case.

If you're in a position to help, here's what you can do:

1. For every $15 you donate, one person gets two hours of classes.

2. Donate $100 or more and you get a small signed tactile drawing in a slim storage case.

3. If you donate $1000 or more, you get a larger framed piece ... open- framed and readable by visually impaired.

4. Give $10,000 and you get the largest, full-sheet drawing, beautifully framed. To donate $10,000, click here to contact us.

5. If your gift is $100,000 or more, it will enable me to deliver a lot more to blind artists, including classes, supplies, exhibitions and more! To donate $100,000 or more, click here to contact us.

My dream is to open an Academy in which blind and sighted artists would work side-by-side, learning from one another the intricacies of high esthetic artistic expression. I'd like to be able to implement that now, while I'm still able to see it through and work out the bugs -- and there will be bugs, as there are with any new exploration into artistic vision -- a kind of vision that knows no boundaries of optical sight and inner perception.

ej gold