PEARCEDALE visual artist Janice Mills says transposing the colours, shapes and images of what she sees and loves onto canvas has always been an important element of her landscape painting.
So, when she learned several years ago that her eyesight was fading, she was confronted by a range of fears, insecurities and self-doubts that only people who had trodden that dark road of imperfection will know.
“I’ve been painting since I was a child, it’s something I took to naturally and something that became a huge part of who I was,” Mills said.
“So, to start to lose my sight was very scary, very confronting, and presented challenges I never expected.”
Wells, who has suffered a tear in her retina and now has cataracts in both eyes, recently took up painting again after a 20-year break instigated by the need to focus on paid employment as a graphic designer,
She says that she knew that to give up her art because of her failing eyesight was to give up on life. Painting was what nourished and challenged her.
Despite her failing eyesight, Mills has persisted with her painting revival, reforming her style to reflect more of an impressionist way of painting, and even reworking her colour palette to suit her new visual outlook.
“As a visual artist the prospect of losing my sight scared the shit out of me. Yes, I have lost some of the detail of my landscape work, but I love the impressionist style, so I have tried to adapt my painting style to that, like Monet who actually lost spectrum of colour,” she said.
“I thought, if he can deal with it, so can I. It means I have to stick my face right onto a page to see, or blow things up on the computer, but I’ve learned that I can deal with it.”
Mills, who has struggled with depression and anxiety since her eyesight diagnosis, has also started a PHD at the age of 65 – proving that persistence and self-belief are the keys to moving forward.
“There is more to show and tell about my story, such as being made redundant as a graphic artist in 2009, my struggles with anxiety and depression, eyesight issues, my return to art and other studies in 2011 beginning with diplomas at Chisholm TAFE which has led to this year being an online PhD candidate at 65,” she said.
Mills, who also teaches art privately and is researching Australian sculptor Ola Cohn for her PHD, said has completed more than 20 paintings for her exhibition, The Year I Lost My Sight, which opens 2 December at the Pearcedale community hall and ends 10 December.
The exhibition was financed with a grant from Creative Victoria.