Sheila Taylor is one of the blind painters that Rosemary Fontenla, OCAC Seniors Art Program co-ordinator, teaches at the Gardens at Qualicum Beach. Taylor holds her painting of poppies during the Gardens in Qualicum Beach’s Seniors Art Show on Tuesday, July 25. — Adam Kveton

Become a painter — sight not required at Qualicum Beach class

Blind seniors taught to paint through OCAC program

When it comes to painting, you could say that sight is pretty important.

Or, you could charge on ahead and learn to paint anyway.

That’s just what three seniors at The Gardens at Qualicum Beach seniors residence have done, with the help of OCAC’s Seniors Art program co-ordinator Rosemary Fontenla.

A former employee at the Gardens, Fontenla started an art program there about two-and-a-half years ago. At that time, she already knew Kaye Lindsay, a resident there who can no longer see.

“We’d become friends, and we trust each other,” said Fontenla. So, despite Lindsay’s impairment, Fontenla began pestering Lindsay to join the art class.

Convincing Lindsay was not an easy process, but Fontenla said it would be a sort of experiment, just to see how it goes.

“Once I got going, I must say I’ve enjoyed it,” said Lindsay

She’s been painting ever since, creating abstract work out of which materializes birds, flowers and other things which Fontenla helps Lindsay develop, though Lindsay is one of her most independent blind painters.

Now, the art group includes two more ladies with visual impairments: Peg Smith who is legally blind, but can see just a bit, and paints with a large magnifying glass; and Sheila Taylor who cannot see at all. Their work, and that of other members of The Gardens’ art group, was on display at the residence’s Seniors Art Show on Tuesday, July 25 -.

None of the three had done much painting before at all, though generally they said they’d decided to try it after finding they could no longer partake in their other passions, like sewing, gardening, dancing or sports.

Fontenla’s teaching process is to first ask the painter what they’d like to paint, and what colours they’d like to use for each portion.

Then, Fontenla guides the painter’s hand by the wrist, teaching them the motions of creating a rose, for instance.

Then, without prompting, she stops guiding their hand, and only holds their arm to the general spot, and lets the painter create.

The results are impressive, said Fontenla.

Smith said she is astounded by the colours available and how she finds a way to incorporate them into her paintings with Lindsay’s help.

“It’s frustrating at times,” she said, describing how she’s sometimes not sure if her brush is about to touch the canvas, despite the use of her magnifying glass. “(But) it’s satisfying too in a way… I’m doing pretty good,” she said.

Taylor said that dancing used to be her thing, but that painting was a new challenge.

“It was something I’d never done before or knew I could do,” she said, adding that the more she’s painted, the more she’s liked it, and that she enjoys the motion of the brush work.

Lindsay said she is very particular about knowing exactly what colours she’s using, where her brush is on the canvas, and what the work looks like so far.

Fontenla explained that each of the three painters have an image in their mind of what their paintings look like as they are doing it, and are able to incorporate changes with Fontenla’s help.

But they must rely on Fontenla’s accurate appraisal of their work to keep working, as well of the input of their fellow painters.

“It’s good to know that people like what you’ve done when you can’t see it yourself,” said Taylor.

Fontenla’s art class also includes other seniors with disabilities. Dee Mellgren was another one of Fontenla’s friends from the Gardens, and convinced her to start painting as well, despite shoulder problems.

Since then, Mellgren has sustained damage to her arms, but still manages to paint when she’s inspired.

“If I see something I really like, I have to attempt it,” she said.

Just Posted

Qualicum Beach on path to ban plastic bags

Bylaw will get legal advice prior to third reading

RDN to improve ways to deal with bylaw disputes

New system being explored that will be more efficient and effective

Hotel, restaurant and multi-use residential complex proposed for Resort Drive

Parksville could soon see more rental units, some zoned for commercial use

Inside the music: step behind the curtain at the venerable Vancouver Island Music Festival

Big Read: VIMF in the Comox Valley exemplifies the spirit of an Island summer music festival

ECHO Players’ 2018/19 season announced

Qualicum Beach theatre company to show Peter Pan musical, Enchanted April and more

All-Indigenous teams break new ground, making BC Games history

This is the first time there have been dedicated Indigenous teams at the BC Summer Games

The Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw people signed an agreement-in-principle with the B.C. government

The signing ceremony, at the Eliza Archie Memorial School, was 25 years in the making

Ping-pong balls of fire dropped to merge two B.C. wildfires

The merger is considered successful by BC Wildfire Services

POLL: Do you use the bus system regularly

Question of the week, July 17

Canada to resettle dozens of White Helmets and their families from Syria

There are fears the volunteers would become a target for government troops

Francesco Molinari wins British Open at Carnoustie

It is his first win at a major and the first by an Italian

Government sets full-time salary range for Justin Trudeau’s nanny

At its top range, the order works out to a rate of $21.79 per hour, assuming a 40-hour work week

Recovery high schools could help teens before addiction takes hold: B.C. parents

Schools could provide mental health supports and let parents discuss their children’s drug use openly

Haida Gwaii village faces housing crisis, targets short-term rentals

Housing is tight and the village is pretty close to zero vacancy

Most Read