Artist's sights unseen

EMU Plains artist Sue Oxenham keeps on painting, even though she can barely see what she creates.

Her near blindness from retinal tumours is caused by a hereditary eye disease.

In spite of this, she has won many awards for painting and photography and she recently beat a field of about 70 other entrants to paint the next Vision Australia calendar.

She painted her winning entry, Textured Pathway, outside the Joan Sutherland Centre using bark and egg shell fragments.

"I pushed bark onto the canvas, like a paintbrush, to paint the trees," Ms Oxenham said.

"Bits of egg shell are scattered, meaning to show sunlight coming through the leaves."

She said it was the fourth time Vision Australia had chosen her to complete their calendar.

In another work, she used a hairbrush to paint poppy stems.

"I'm excited about trying different things to make marks on canvas," she said.

Ms Oxenham developed a passion for art while she was still a child, at first drawing pictures with chalk on blackboard. Her fading eyesight in later years did not dim her passion, nor her ability.

"Nothing can take that passion away, no matter what the sensory deprivation," Ms Oxenham said.

She learnt to use what sight she has left and to paint through touch.

This often involves selecting different paints from specially marked tubes, placing them on canvas and feeling the images taking shape.

"I usually paint outside because it's best using daylight," she said.

She says that even though she cannot see her work as well as other people can, it is their reactions that make it worthwhile.

"Knowing they're going to be excited about what I've done and them expressing it, is what motivates me," Ms Oxenham said.

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