I got new glasses….
And in getting new glasses I discovered a few things. I am not that young anymore. Yes, I finally had to break down and get Progressives. Or those pesky “bifocals” as we used to call them. Ok, I am almost 52 years old, so I guess I did pretty good at holding them off. But my vision is not what it was.
Then a weird thing happened. I went home the first day after I got them and I looked at a current painting on my easel. Hmmmm… passages that I thought were pretty “smooth” were not!
Wow! I can SEE!!!!
So unbeknownst to me, some of my latest paintings are a bit harsher than they used to be. Go figure. It was my vision. I am happy that I feel like I have control over my images again. And that I don’t have to keep taking my glasses off to look at my work up close.
But the glasses have not fixed everything. I went back and forth as to whether or not I should bring this up… but it may be something that many people may be able to relate to and I have been putting off talking about it for a long time. But since it is now a bigger part of my life I thought I needed to address it.
I have macular degeneration.
My grandmother had it. Apparently it is hereditary. But my issues may be different. When I was about six years old I fell down an entire flight of stairs and went blind for a few hours. I don’t remember the fall, but I clearly remember losing my vision. I could only see a slight curve of light in my peripheral vision. It was scary and terrifying and one of the clearest memories I have from childhood. Doctors asking me over and over what I could see… and I couldn’t see anything. I can’t imagine how scary it must have been for my parents. I don’t really remember my vision coming back, only that I was in the hospital and I could see again. The concussion swelled my brain and apparently affected my optic nerves. I still have a dent on my noggin… (yes, George Schill, that is why I have so many issues…) Six months after that my vision started to change. I needed new glasses about every 6 months until l was about the age of 16. The fall apparently caused damage to the back of my right eye on the macula. Once thought of as dormant damage, it is now changing for some reason.
I noticed my central vision starting to act weird about 12 years ago. I noticed that when I read a book at night the lines on the page were getting “curvy” in my right eye. Not something an artist wants to think about. It is a big fear. I do the “doctor” things, etc… get checked by a specialist every 2 years… etc… but there is nothing that can be done. Or so they say. I eat well, take supplements, have learned about lutein… anyway, hoping it will stave off the progression.
In the image above I tried to re-create what I see now on a white page. They look like raindrops and it seems like the rain is starting to fall faster.
Edgar Degas had macular degeneration. Here is a quote from a friend of his:
“he should sometimes have spoken of the torment that it was to draw, when he could only see around the spot at which he was looking, and never the spot itself.”
So in the end his artwork changed, not from anything more noble than he couldn’t see quite right anymore.
Will that happen to me? I am not sure. I try not to think about not being able to paint successfully in a few years. Especially now that I am on my own and my art needs to support me. So maybe that is why my “drive” is back again. We only have so much time for anything. Does it affect me now in my painting or daily life? Not really. It is not that bad yet. I am aware of it on snowy, well- lit days and when I read a book. When I think a room is dark I worry when I find myself saying “I can’t see well because it is kind of dark in here” and my son says, “no, it is pretty bright in here”… hmmmmm.
Don’t feel sorry for me. It is just life. And life, I have learned, is hard. I believe I have a long time before this will truly affect me. Until then I take saffron, clove, lemon oil, wolf berry juice, frankincense and vitamin E… blah, blah blah… etc… etc… etc. I just hope I can keep it from getting worse. So if you have any good remedies, doctor suggestions or just want to commiserate in your battle with fears of vision loss please reach out to me.
Together maybe we can see a bit better.
Thank you for sharing. It helps to know what you’re going through and the history behind what may be causing it to happen. I wish I had words of wisdom to share with you. I will be taking your Florida seminar in October and look forward to learning from you. Best wishes!!
awesome! I look forward to meeting you then! 🙂
Hi Christine! I am a big fan of your beautiful portraits. I am enjoying seeing your progress on the restaurant project too! I have something called a “macular pucker”. When I am reading, the words are curvy and lines not quite straight. I noticed it several years ago and the Dr. said it could get worse or even get better?? Anyway, so far so good. Not too much worse and it has probably been ten years. It doesn’t affect my artwork much because I am not a detail person. I do landscapes mostly:) Just thinking… hopefully your eyesight will not affect your work, but if it does it may change the way you see things in a good way. Less detail can be a freeing thing!
hi! thanks for sharing! this gives me hope. yes…squinting is good right?
Oh Christine, I hope as improvements and advances are made medically, something can be done to help you. In the meantime, your positive attitude will carry you forward and show through your beautiful work.
thanks! you bet! kick-ass is my middle name!
I am in the beginning stages as well. I take AREDS 2. It supposedly is the only proven supplement to hold it off. Not fun anticipating the future as artists and having our eyesight affected. Oh – he said sunglasses are a must as well. Slows it down. Just fyi…..you probably already know all of this Enjoy your blogs always. Thanks for sharing.
I dont take the Areds but I might as well try. I take Ningxia Red juicee every day- there are many that have said it helps. I have reversed my eyesight a bit with that. My prescription is not as strong now. I just got prescription sunglasses again too. I gotta get better at wearing them. thanks for the reminder!
My husband does not hear well even with his hearing aids. I was getting tired of yelling at him. Until I lost my hearing in one of my ears (due to a build up of fluid). It has been treated and I am fine now. The upshot is I am much more aware of the problems other people have with hearing loss. If nothing else you can appreciate your older students in seeing and hearing their problems as you teach.
Take care my friend.
this is so true! amazing how we have to learn lessons in life in order to help others.
I know the fear of not being able to see to do artistic work or read. I too have been diagnosed with Macular Degeneration in my right eye. It has not as yet affected my vision and since I am already 77, it may not do that much. However, I was just told a hole in developing and almost through in my macula. That requires an operation where they insert a gas bubble into the eye, which heals the hole as it is absorbed by the eye. Problem is that you must remain completely face down for a week or more. I thought I was matter of fact about it, until my back went into spasms, most likely because I am far more worried about it than I think. Scary stuff: loss of vision.
You certainly have a good attitude towards the problem. I hope all goes well for you. Your work stills looks damn good to me.
hi. wow. that is scary. amazing what they can do today though. yes it is scary but you are tough! and a good artist! 🙂
All I know is proper eating and PLENTY of exercise, without needing to be a fanatic, slows down the again process. My doctor has confirmed this to me many times. Also, my suspicion is that any type of deterioration happens inconsistently. Just a theory, but we think in linear terms and patterns. But our body is so complex, as is our natural surroundings, I be the pattern of “degeneration” is that there is no pattern. BTW, Dan Greene wears “tri-focals.” And yet, his depth perception is so “off the charts” that when he is tested at his eye doctor’s, the staff stops to come watch the test. I’m extremely fortunate in that I don’t need glasses, even when reading. An old girlfriend is an OR tech for eye operations. She wondered, since our eyes are muscles, that from drawing and painting so much, especially from life and on location, if I have not exercised them a lot and this slowed down the aging process of my eyes themselves. Who knows? But you have it correct: You won’t stop painting, nor should you. And you’re in good company with Degas. I bet your post will conjure up a lot of stories. Frank Frazetta, the great fantasy illustrator, had a stroke and then began painting with his opposite hand. Others have done it. A friend from Boston, and a Copley Master, did this when he broke his natural arm. When American Artist did an article on him, they included some of his left-handed paintings. A priest friend has told me that “aging is an ‘inside’ game. But we must do it in an extroverted world.” This means to follow your own gut and heart, and not the world’s. We will all age, artist or not. I think the realization to “get on with it” after so many years is universal. In many ways, we all need to stop rehearsing for tomorrow. Betty Davis said, “Getting old isn’t for sissies.” And you are no sissy.
thanks for sharing! nope! no sissie here!
In the past 2 months I have had cataract surgery. I was tired of not being able to read , or it being to dark to see well. The difference is amazing. I had been looking through a glass of ice tea before and never knew how brown everything was. The light is so clear now. We also discovered I have the begining of Macular degeneration. No one in my family has that. It is disturbing to say the least!!! I can understand your fear. All I can do is hope for the best and take the supplements. Hope yours turns out well.
hi. thanks for sharing. I am glad your eyesight is better now. apparently clove oil and lemon oil are good for Macular. worth a shot. 🙂
I too have the start of Macular D. There is wet Macular D. And Dry MD. There is a new treatment for the wet. I have dry.
No treatment for the dry, but the dry progresses slower.
My ophthalmologist recommended a vitamin , PreserVision Areds 2. The 2 because I lived in second hand smoke all my life. 2 is for people who smoked or like me was exposed.
I can see those smudge spots when looking at a white wall.or the grid with the dot in the middle the doctor told me to look at to see if the lines curve, or any are missing , I’m to call her.
So far it’s only the smudges similar to your raindrops.
After turning the light out at night the room is total black, the light from the window breaks the darkness slowly.
Be sure to wear sun glasses outside.
Driving at night will become more difficult.
thanks, will be aware….
i have a few friends who have this and they are able to control it by getting shots. You can talk to your eye doc about this.
Julie Skoda told me about your macular degeneration. I just read your blog post.
You have described what my vision was like in my right eye three years ago. I have wet in my right eye and dry in my left eye.
They can treat wet macular degeneration! I am getting monthly eye shots. I highly recommend seeing Dr. Fenton at Wheaton Eye Clinic. He is a retinologist who specializes in macular degeneration. They have many locations. I go to the one in Hinsdale for my shots. Call tomorrow!
awesome! I have the dry version. and I see someone in Cranberry, but a second opinion is always good! will do!
Christine the God given talent you received is shared each time
someone views your paintings or you teach a student. The joy
you share is awesome! AMD is being studied and will be found
to be curable very soon. In the meantime, Pray and do not worry. I eat blueberries each day to protect my eyes as I read
they help one see depth and color and have done so since 1994.
So far, so good. I will add you to my Prayer List and all who
have eye problems. My eyes checked out very good and healthy
last Wednesday and no sign of AMD or anything. Praise God! I am now elderly. Praise God! Gini
hi love! you are the least elderly person I know. you always inspire me. thanks! hope to see you soon.
Tough news! We humans are adaptive and I know with your strong spirit you will thrive in spite of vision changes. I am dealing with neck and shoulder issues resulting in numbness in my right hand and arm. So I am working with my left hand, in short bursts, and trying other media. I’m 68. Aging brings changes and we adapt and move on. Keeping you in my thoughts.
I am thinking of you as well.. thanks…
Christine, Since your post I have been thinking about your challenges with vision and what must be daunting as to you as an artist. Most importantly… I am so sorry that you are dealing with this. As I grow older I am amazed at the uninvited transitions I continue to experience, even when I exercise, watch my diet, and take care of myself. That said, you have been very wise, beyond developing your skills; and two things that I know about you (among many more that I’m sure I don’t) is that 1) you moved into life as a dedicated, full-time artist when you were young (and clearly, you’re still young!) Secondly, you are an excellent teacher/mentor: this is an important aspect of artists in today’s world, and will serve you and your students well as you continue to deepen this aspect of your work. I feel fortunate to have attended one of your workshops; and will be back one of these days!
yay! I would love to work with you again. thanks for the encouraging words!