I was very fortunate yesterday to hear Annie Fennymore speaking about her process of creating art. Annie gradually went blind as a young woman until she lost her sight completely in her forties. At the age of 49, she lost her grand daughter which turned to be the last straw but also proved to be the start of her career as an artist. Her husband gave her some quick drying DIY putty and using the long ‘ropes’ made with putty, she created her first painting which she is holding in the above photograph. This painting of a cottage is very simple, almost childlike-but for her this was a huge step forward. In the years following, she developed her style to a mature style of abstract colourful paintings that she says reveal her passion and love for life. She has exhibited all over the UK and has won awards including a commendation for Helen Keeler International awards. A selection of her works are exhibited at the moment at the Moorfields eye hospital in London where I am am outpatient too, with my eye problems. Do go and visit if you can.
Initially Annie depended on her memory for colours and shapes. Today she uses a number of electronic aids (colour identifiers) for the blind all of which have the software that converts all text into speech. These gadgets enable her to label her tubes of paint using a system which tells her the colour of the paint or the surface. She uses her finger tips to ‘paint’ on her colours after realising the painting in her head. Using ‘glue tack’ she outlines her painting just as someone would use a pencil and then she colours it in. Annie jokes that her adorable guide dog, Amber, often emerges out of her studios covered in paint! The drawing on the right is of Amber. Annie uses putty, PVA, paper and even toilet paper to create textures on her paintings. The painting on the left was made on driftwood.
I have written about ‘blind art’ before but Annie made me realise something very deep about being an artist. She said that she accepted her situation, she did not fight it. Instead she funnelled that energy into creativity. Now, I have spent a lot of my life fighting for things, fighting on behalf of other people. As I grow older and with increasing ill health, I see that sadly that energy could have been spent creatively instead. However, it is never too late to learn. Today, with great humbleness, I accept many of the situations I find myself and have decided to move on, concentrating instead on revealing my creativity and following my heart. Thank you, Annie!