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Blind painter an inspiration

John Bramblitt is the kind of person who inspires us to do more than we thought we could.

Bramblitt is a Denton artist, and although he told us that art has always been a part of his life, he didn’t begin to paint until he lost his eyesight in 2001.

“Sometimes it’s hard for people to understand how I paint, but it’s really simple,” he said with a laugh. “But it requires patience.”

If you read staff writer John Harden’s story about Bramblitt in the Sunday, July 21, issue, you know that line about patience is an understatement.

Before Bramblitt can begin painting a portrait, he must first touch and feel his subjects. He uses his fingers to lightly sweep across a person’s face and body, letting his fingers gently fall along curves and distinct features.

He uses the sense of touch to create a mental map of his subjects — a technique he developed after losing his eyesight.

“I’m a visually impaired visual artist. That might sound strange to most people, but to me, it isn’t,” he said.

Bramblitt, 42, uses a special type of paint that creates raised lines on a canvas. He uses the lines to sketch his subjects so he can navigate by touch. It’s a technique he calls touch-to-sight. The texture of the paint tells him what color he’s using.

Bramblitt’s technique is similar to reading Braille or navigating a darkened room.

“When I lost my eyesight, it didn’t occur to me that I could still paint,” he said. “But when you’re blind, you have to learn how to navigate anything. And it occurred to me that I could also paint using the same techniques. But instead of being able to see a line, I would have to feel them.”

Bramblitt, a 2007 graduate of the University of North Texas, lost his eyesight due to a rare form of epilepsy and thought it was the end of his artistic endeavors. He said he fell into a deep depression and felt trapped within his own mind.

“I felt like people began to treat me differently after I lost my sight,” he said. “So I made the decision to start painting, because I wanted to show everyone that it’s still me inside of here.”

Bramblitt said art is about seeing the world in new ways, and he regularly teaches workshops on his touch-to-sight technique to artists, from beginners to advanced. He blindfolds them and instructs them to draw by feeling.

“My journey has been amazing, and I want to share what I learn,” he said.

Over the years, Bramblitt said his paintings have become brighter — it’s because every day, he grows a little happier.

“Don’t get me wrong, I still have my struggles and challenges. I’m still blind, I still have kidney problems, and I’m still an epileptic,” he said. “The only thing that has changed is my perspective. That’s made all the difference.”

Something tells us that Bramblitt is an excellent teacher — his inspiring story has already taught us a few valuable lessons.

When it comes to perspective, we could all benefit from sharing another’s point of view from time to time.