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EDITIONS
Friday, 11 October, 2002, 23:27 GMT 00:27 UK
'Deteriorating sight won't stop me'
Mill Cottage
Each painting is produced in grids

Dawn Parkinson is a highly talented artist who exhibits throughout the world, but she has never seen any of her paintings.

Dawn is registered blind. She started losing her sight before she was four and lost it completely in her left eye in 1987. She also has serious problems with the vision in her right eye.

She paints in tiny grids with the use of a special little telescope - a monocular - gradually building up into a full painting.


The world was stunning. I thought if that was what people could see then what are they moaning about

Dawn Parkinson

She is unable to see the completed picture, but can study it grid by grid.

Some paintings can take nearly two years to complete.

Dawn has never had a painting lesson in her life, but despite this her work is highly acclaimed.

She has exhibited in America, Japan, Australia and Germany, often alongside sighted artists unaware of her disability.

"Although I knew my sight was going it was a frightening experience," she said.

Grid

"I was very depressed and hated the thought of not being able to paint, which I loved.

"Painting is a challenge and gives you the courage to say 'yes, if I can do this I can try and do anything'.

"I think some people were taken aback when they realised I was blind."

She did paint before becoming blind, but admits that it was her loss of sight and her battle with cancer of the thyroid that inspired her to take it up again.

Dawn Parkinson painting
Dawn uses a monocular to see her work

"I did a course in sculpture and my late husband built me a kiln. I was glazing it and I thought if I could do that then I could paint as well."

Dawn's sight had been deteriorating since she was a toddler, due to retinal problems.

But then she got her monocular and her life became transformed.

"When I first got the monocular I could not help crying. The world was stunning," she said.

"I thought if that was what people could see then what are they moaning about.

'Inspirational'

"The monocular is like a little telescope. I have two of them. I carry one of them around in my bag and one larger one that I use for distances."

Dawn uses dots in her paintings so that unsighted people can feel the dots to help build up a picture themselves.

Simon Labbett, the Royal National Institute for the Blind's Community Arts Officer (RNIB), said Dawn had proved an inspiration to others.

Alone
Dawn's sight deteriorated gradually

"Sight loss undermines personal identity and crushes self-confidence to the point where artists feel they have nothing left to pour into their work," he said.

"But Dawn Parkinson's work is remarkable, and demonstrates how by experimenting with different methods, she has found a way to start painting again.

"She's an inspiration to other people who have lost their sight and didn't think they would be able to paint again."

On Tuesday the RNIB launches its survey, "Changing the way we think about blindness," which studied over 1,000 adults with sight problems.

The RNIB Helpline offers information, advice and support for anyone with a serious sight problem.

Call 0845 766 9999 if you or someone you know has a serious sight problem.

See also:

03 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
10 Jul 02 | Health
28 Jun 02 | Health
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