Why I paint
This is why I have to paint —
In my late 30s, busy with two children, and a new job as a college lecturer in a new town, I noticed my eyesight was changing. My glasses seemed to be wrong somehow - they made my eyes ache and sometimes it was easier to take them off to read small print.
The optician noticed too - the sight in one eye had improved. So we changed the prescription, and it was odd, but interesting. A few months later, it was happening again. This time the optician was more concerned and sent me to my doctor, who passed me on to the hospital. They put drops into my eyes to open up the pupils and looked deep inside. They blew air in. They looked again. They could not work out what was going on. They injected yellow dye into my hand and waited for it to go around my blood stream until it reach my eyes and then took photographs. They sent me for a head scan - this was the most worrying point for me in the search for what was happening. Up to this point, there had been discomfort from bright lights shone into my eyes, nausea from the dye, blurred eyes for whole days while the drops wore off, inconvenience. Now it was potentially serious.
And nothing showed up.
Meanwhile, my eyesight was getting worse. And at some point, a consultant realized that what was going on was, very simply, a cataract: a very simple condition in which the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. The cloudiness may develop all over the lens or from the outside inwards, or from the middle outwards. Mine was the latter, and had briefly improved my shortsightedness. The possibility of it being a cataract had been missed because of my age - mostly they occur in older people.
I had to wait a few months for surgery on the affected eye. I lived in a changing world, seen from inside of me. At night, street lights came to have beautiful haloes around them. The world seen through this eye became more blurred, and colours became muted, as a brownish tinge took over. I could close the affected eye and see the world as it used to be. Or close the good eye, and be in another place altogether.
Surgery to replace the lens was done under local anaesthetic, and was scary but straightforward. After a short rest, I walked out of the hospital to go home with a patch over the eye for three days. Back to the hospital to be checked and then I went out into of the hospital door with sight restored.
What I saw made me stop. Right there, on the grubby path to the car park, lined with dusty shrubs, was a new paradise. The world restored to brightness. The greenest green. Leaves with the sharpest outlines. Beautiful bushes standing brightly against a wall.
That was the day I started looking. It was the day that art began for me, even though it would take another two years, another cataract in the other eye, and another operation before I took action to make art a real part of my life.
That was the day I stopped taking sight, and seeing the world, for granted. The day I started really looking at how my world is formed, how colours sit in relation to one other and are in conversation, how one shape connects with another, grows into and past another.
After that came learning to draw, learning to paint, painting, more painting, planning how to be a painter, how to develop as a painter, refreshing the spirit, renewing the commitment. Letting places like this Greek village infuse my eyes with fresh wonder and delight. And continuing painting.
Painting is how I say thank you, how I pass on the gift —