News & Events ::

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Image - Southborough artist Arthur Ellis refuses to let blindness hold him back

Southborough artist Arthur Ellis refuses to let blindness hold him back

By TimWyatt
Tuesday, June 25, 2013

There was a moment when, lying in a hospital bed after a devastating bout of meningitis had robbed him of his sight, Arthur Ellis considered giving up art.

“It just flashed through my mind for a little while that maybe life would be easier without this constant drive to keep creating things,” he said. “But I thought ‘That’s not right, I really must carry on with it’. Nothing stopped (after becoming blind), it was just like starting all over again.”

The 67-year-old Southborough resident had been painting, sculpting and drawing in his spare time for decades when he suddenly contracted meningitis in 2006. He said: “I went to the doctors with an earache and before I got out of the surgery the doctor got me an ambulance. From there on I was in a coma. It was touch and go. They told my brother and my boys to constantly expect the worse - brain damage and life support. It was all pretty hairy stuff I think.”

After more than nine months in hospital Mr Ellis returned to his home on Bedford Road and began to teach himself to draw without being able to see what he is doing.

“I started trying to crosshatch because that used to be a favorite technique,” he said. “I suddenly realized that it wasn’t easy to do that anymore so I invented different kinds of techniques and began using different media.”

His sense of touch became vital as he used small blobs of Blu-Tak to mark out on the paper where he was drawing. Gadgets that can tell what color a surface is and then say it audibly are also helpful in the creative process.

“I have got used to all sorts of crazy techniques but the actual drawing has got to come straight from me,” Mr. Ellis said.

With the outside world now closed off, imagination had to become Mr Ellis’ inspiration. Before losing his sight he focused on creating portraits of people but since becoming blind his artwork has become more abstract.

“I think my brain still doesn’t accept it (the blindness) and keeps inventing things,” he said. “I still hallucinate quite a bit as well.”

Mr. Ellis suffers from Charles Bonnet Syndrome, a condition where blind people have vivid, recurring, visual hallucinations.

He said: “I can cope with it now but it had reached a pitch where it was quite frightening. I used to imagine I was on the edge of a precipice with rocks and the sea beneath. And there was the feeling you could just tip off. I got my sons to take me from room to room to get away from it but you just got images of the same thing from different angles. For me it was pretty terrifying. The brain keeps throwing up these images and sometimes they are very interesting. It’s still really good for subject matter.”

While it does still frustrate Mr. Ellis at time that he cannot see his finished work, he insisted he was not angry about his predicament.

“I’m not really into this whole business of saying ‘Why me?’ If it wasn’t me it would be someone else,” he said. “It’s got it’s downsides but my brother’s built this great studio, I’ve been involved in exhibitions and through the South East Open Studios project people have come to view my art work, and I’ve made contacts with people who are interested in art.”

Categories :: Events · News
(3339) Views · Permalink