How losing her sight led this artist to find new creative passion and focus

Post by
Marisa Young
How losing her sight led this artist to find new creative passion and focus

Imagine the life you know and love slowly being taken away from you by a condition you had no control over. How do you overcome being told you can no longer work or partake in your favourite sports and hobbies?

Digital artist Pamela Thistle knows firsthand that it takes strong mental and physical resilience—plus some creative workarounds—to continue to live life to the fullest.

After being diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, Pamela's vision declined to the point that she was forced to step back from her career as an Interior Designer.

Rather than letting illness deter her from her passions, Pamela Thistle found a new way to channel her creative energy—and anger—into something positive.

Find out how Pamela overcame losing two of her most vital senses and faces each day with great fortitude and a wicked sense of humour.

My creative journey

When I stopped working I had absolutely no idea what to do with my life (like a lot of people, my career defined who I was) and I needed an outlet for my creativity as well as my anger/depression at not being able to live my life as it has been.

I try to live my life to the fullest and try new things. Despite my disability, I am an avid cyclist (Mountain, Road and Cyclocross) and Snowboarder. I use guides for most of these activities and have found ways to adapt to suit my needs. And Yes, I do get hurt...a LOT.

Seeing things more clearly

I discovered photography by way of accident: I borrowed a camera to take on a trip to Hawaii and was completely taken with it.

It turns out I had inadvertently found a way to capture an entire “scene” without missing anything!

Imagine my surprise when I loaded the images onto my computer and saw things there that I didn't even know were there at the time I took the image! Whoa! This led to taking photography courses and joining photography groups to learn more.

Finding a new creative voice

A friend asked me once to edit a photo of hers by replacing a subjects’ head with another and from there the power of what Photoshop was able to do was discovered. I love to tell stories of my adventures and how I see things in my head and Photoshop manipulation gave voice to that.

I use adaptive technology such as voice-over and magnification on my computer to help with the programs. Depending on the situation you can find me with my face nearly pressed up against the screen or I am sitting back three feet away so I can try to see the whole picture.

When I complete a project I leave it for a day or so and come back to review it with fresh eyes because I missed “mistakes” earlier.

Finding your own version of creative

I believe that everyone has creativity in them in some way. The key is finding the right outlet in which to do that. It could be painting, gardening, tattoos, fashion or even cooking. Heck I even tried knitting and baking, although it turns out that just wasn’t for me!

When it comes to my creativity, I believe that my disability actually helps me in some way.

I am naturally curious about everything (which is a trait most creatives have) but due to my low-vision I often have to stop or slow down in order to see the whole scene or look at something closely.

It’s taking the time to study my surroundings in detail that keeps me creative. My limited vision makes me ultra-focused on one area without the distractions around it whereas most people would just keep on moving. It also helps that I have an overactive imagination!

My favourite image that I have created is my sunflower field image. I was riding my bike past a field of sunflowers and literally came to a screeching halt to look at it. I scared my poor guide by screeching and yelling at her! I manipulated the sky to reflect sunset but all else is as it was.

My second favourite image is my take on my favourite Christmas movie “A Christmas Story”. I do enjoy putting myself into movies or shows that I love.

Tools of the trade:

Camera - iPhone 11 Pro or a Canon 7D.

Editing - Lightroom, Topaz Labs and Photoshop.

Phone Apps - Werble and Cinemagraph Pro.

Thank you Pamela for allowing us to tell your story and reminding us just how important a creative life is. Follow Pamela’s many adventures over at @theblindthistle on Instagram.

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