Magic Vision — Through Science!

As a visual artist, my eyesight is of prime importance, and I’ve just embarked on the life-changing experience of having my vision corrected — surgically.

I’ve been extremely nearsighted since early childhood. I got my first glasses when I was seven (should have had them long before that, but no one knew I couldn’t see until I started school). I knew that kids who had glasses got called names, and had to wear ugly horn-rim things that looked like a robot tarantula was gripping their face. I cried and begged not to be branded a social pariah, but no dice. My mom got an older boy that I admired, and who wore glasses himself, to talk to me and convince me it was OK (he was really kind). But I couldn’t imagine what it would be like when I first put on those heavy, thick lenses.


“Tutti-Fruiti”— see the end for the description of how the images came to be.

It was an epiphany. Suddenly a blurred figure down the hall resolved into someone I knew. All my life I had lived in a world of fog, knowing vaguely that there was a world beyond the confines of the limited range of my sight. Suddenly that world was mine! I still hated the robot tarantulas, but it was a lesson in paradox to realize that they also gave me something precious.

Ink play 4

Storm Spirit

Over the years I’ve been through a succession of ever-increasing prescriptions. As my myopia and astigmatism worsened, the technology of corrective lenses became more advanced, the materials keeping up with lighter and thinner lenses to compensate for what would have been an unwieldy thickness of glass when I was seven. For many years, my correction was able to maintain 20/20 vision, and I revelled each time I got a new prescription, and could have back all the sharpness of the world… until I needed a new prescription.



About ten years ago, I started having trouble getting a prescription that worked. Eventually, one optometrist broke the news to me that I could no longer be corrected to normal vision, and that I might have incipient cataracts. I muddled along for a few years as the fog of my childhood lurked at the edges of my world, finding it harder to see at concerts, drive at night, and finally even finding it hard even to draw. I’d been using magnifiers over my glasses to be able to draw and paint, and I started seriously investigating drawing digitally because I can make things really big on my screen (which is a whole ‘nother can o’ worms, because then I want to make things really detailed). Something had to be done.

Ink play 2


I went to another optometrist (for some reason mine keep retiring or moving; maybe I’m that scary?). She referred me to a clinic that specializes in cataract surgery. I was dubious about this, since my cataracts themselves weren’t that bad yet, but she told me that they could correct my vision as part of the surgery, and I was going to need it eventually in any case. So I went.

Ink play 3


I won’t go through the long process of learning about all the different kinds of fancy lens implants Modern Science has come up with; suffice it to say, there was one just right for me. Unfortunately they are rather costly, as our provincial medical plan regards the fancy, astigmatism-correcting ones as optional (they will cover just plain cataract surgery, but then I’d still be stuck with the glasses and potential of not being able to correct for the vision I need to work). This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make sure I can see to draw for many years to come. Painful as the hit to the bank account is, I look at it as an investment, though I may have to have an Art Yard Sale to soften the blow!



My left eye was done last Wednesday right there in the modern, shiny eye clinic (which mostly I couldn’t appreciate because the first thing they did was take my glasses away!). It took a couple of days for the vision to clear completely, but when it did —

I felt like I was seven years old again, seeing the leaves on the trees, the faces of my friends, the shine and the sharpness of the world. It’s Magic, and it’s Science, all rolled up in one, and I can’t wait to have the other eye join this one for some super-bionic-binocular-vision.

… but  just to prove I’m not seven years old anymore, I notice that this place needs serious dusting!

Caramel mocha swirl

Caramel-Mocha Swirl

About the images: The day after my surgery, I got an email about a week-long art challenge that I had wanted to participate in. I haven’t made much art in the last couple of months, what with conventions, the Cold Beasties, and not being able to see well. So even though my vision was still pretty discombobulated, I figured I could push some paint around and play (the first prompt was “Play” — the second day was “Sweet”).

I soaked some thin handmade watercolour paper called Khadi, got out my paints, some inks, some salt, some rubbing alcohol, a spray bottle, and had a grand time, experimenting like a mad scientist (and laughing maniacally, at least in my head), dropping ink in watercolour, alcohol on that, spraying with water, mooshing stuff around, repeating the process. I drew in India ink with a chopstick, and cut some soda straws to sharp points to score the paper. The second day, I got out the oil pastels and the watercolour pencils. If you’d like some details about doing this kind of stuff, I have an article on Watercolour Wizardry for you!


By the third day, I felt ready to get back to work and see if I could draw. With a contact lens in the un-enhanced eye, and using reading glasses now for closeup, the answer is a resounding yes! Once again it’s a pleasure instead of a strain to draw. I’ve been pencilling Mermaid Music pages, and working on a sketch for the cover of the next Quadra Cats book (more about that soon!)


And as if this hasn’t been long enough, here’s me last weekend at Van Isle Con in Sidney, BC, the last convention of my interrupted con season:

Karen at Van Isle Con

I had a wonderful time there — it was a first time show, and incredibly well organized and friendly. The turnout was great, and we’re all hoping it will continue next year!


9 responses to “Magic Vision — Through Science!

  1. I’m the opposite… had super human vision as a child and up to about 43… then it started… 1.0, then 1.5… up to 2.5 readers and I can’t see anything close now without readers. I also have retinal holes, so surgery is touchy. I’ll get it sooner or later tho.
    I love these art pieces! So clever!


    • HI Ilex! Thanks, I’m glad you like them — really they were just playing around and watching the paint spread. Which is a lot more exciting than watching the paint dry!

      I hope your surgery is a huge success when you get it! They can do so many amazing things now.

      My optometrist (one in the parade of them, anyway) told me that just about everybody hits the reading glasses stage at age 42. And just about everyone I’ve talked to says that’s when it hit them; I think I stopped wearing contacts because of needing reading glasses around 45. And now I’m going to need them again — I’ve already started hoarding them to leave lying around the house! Have to experiment with different strengths — and I discovered the other day that the drugstore sells “progressive” reading glasses, which I’ll try out when everything has stabilized.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Drawing the Snow Leopard | Karen Gillmore Art·

  3. Pingback: Zooly Comics and Drawings | Karen Gillmore Art·

  4. Pingback: An Eclectic Menagerie | Karen Gillmore Art·

  5. Pingback: Where Have the Merfolk Gone? | Mermaid Music·

  6. Pingback: Witches and Mermaids and Bears, Oh my! | Karen Gillmore Art·

I'd love to know — what do you think about this?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.