John Bramblitt

John BramblittOne of the last things John Bramblitt saw before losing his eyesight was the detail of Saturn’s rings in a UNT astronomy lab. Then, he found a new way to explore the world. He began to paint.

 

When John Bramblitt (’07) completely lost his vision during his freshman year at UNT in 2001, he turned to painting, sometimes spending 16 hours a day at a canvas in addition to attending classes.

“I started to understand the world a little better and think through the depression and frustration,” says Bramblitt, who has battled epilepsy since he was a toddler and believes seizures destroyed his vision. “It forced me to step outside myself and start living in the moment.”

The idea of drawing seemed ridiculous at first, he says, but expressing himself on a canvas was easier at the time than dealing with the three-dimensional world.

“When I paint, I can’t think of anything else — not the next brushstroke, bills I have to pay or a seizure from that morning,” he says.

Using white paint, Bramblitt first draws an outline, then feels his way across the raised edges to paint each color. Most of his works are created with oil paint because each color texture varies in consistency — for instance, he says white is thicker and creamier than black.

“Every emotion I had and thing I touched started to have color because it reminded me of a color I painted with,” he says.

Among his subjects are musicians, street scenes and animals. He says he drew a lot of dogs before getting his guide dog, Echo. He also once arranged a meeting with skateboarder Tony Hawk just to study his face for a painting.

“I see with my hands and am able to take in a lot more information,” Bramblitt says. “I think I have an advantage over sighted artists because I’m completely there, touching the model, asking questions and getting an emotional response.”

During the past eight years, Bramblitt has created more than 100 paintings, which have sold in 20 countries. The 2008 CAP awards, a Dutch awards program honoring the achievements of individuals with disabilities, commissioned him to paint famous Dutch model Reni de Boer, and the prime minister honored his work.

Bramblitt and his wife, Jacqi Serie (’02), production director for the North Texas Daily campus newspaper, celebrated the birth of their first child, Jack, in March 2008. The family travels around the country, hosting and teaching workshops for blind and sighted children, adults and artists.

Bramblitt, whose once daily seizures have drastically reduced in number and severity, credits his perseverance to graduate to the staff in UNT’s Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program. The program guides undergraduate students into graduate study.

“They are brilliant. If not for the constant encouragement of Diana Elrod (director) and Judy Morris (former director) when I was losing my sight, I would have dropped out of school,” he says.

Instead, Bramblitt is planning to return to UNT for graduate school. And he had his first flying lesson this summer as part of a long-term plan to use colored smoke to create abstract art in the air.

“I’m obsessed with painting,” he says. “In expressing myself, connecting with people, it’s become the way I see the world.”

 

11 comments

I had the pleasure of meeting John while he was taking an astronomy lab. He was always positive and kept his sense of humor! I remember him telling me that learning to cross the street was like an algebra problem. What an amazing individual. He's definitely an inspiration!

Comment #1 posted by Mary (not verified) 4 years 44 weeks ago.

This is a great story I am always happy hear about more successful SOVA grads. John you sound like a great guy congratulations. I have been a part of http://www.vsarts.org/ for some time it is a great organization, I think you would benefit by getting involved with them. Feel free to e-mail me if you like.
Eric McGehearty, Sculptor
eric@mcgeheartyinc.com
www.ericmcgehearty.com

Comment #2 posted by Eric McGehearty (not verified) 4 years 44 weeks ago.

WOW

WOW. I am very impressed. I wish you the best.

Comment #3 posted by Anonymous (not verified) 4 years 44 weeks ago.

I have much respect and admiration for the talent and 'vision' it takes to draw or paint when you are blind. I have a good friend in Watertown, New York, who is also a wonderful artist who used to have his own studio...."Blind Mike's"

Comment #4 posted by Billy Mitchell (not verified) 4 years 44 weeks ago.

What a wonderful story! You are truly an inspiration to us all! God Bless You in ALL of your endeavors.

Comment #5 posted by Rebecca (not verified) 4 years 45 weeks ago.

This article gave me hope for my granddaughter, Hannah. She loves color, art & drawing. It amazed us to just find out that Hannah is almost completely blind in one of her eyes and legally blind in the other without correction. I was so angry that her doctors missed that she had a condition that could have been reversed year after year. All I could think of that she will not be able to do her art that she loves. John's story has given me hope for Hannah and the art she loves. Someday, I would love to Hannah to meet John. Thanks for the story.

Hannah's Grandmother

Comment #6 posted by Anonymous (not verified) 4 years 45 weeks ago.

Great article and it is exactly what I needed to read. I usually ignore or breeze past articles posted, but his art caught my eye immediately. After reading his story, I immediately related to taking what may seem to others as a disability and using it for something awesome. That is the reason I decided to return to UNT and go forward with my career change. I think I will keep this copy as a reminder when I am feeling overwhelmed while working on my Master's. :)

Comment #7 posted by Zan (not verified) 4 years 45 weeks ago.

So amazing and inspirational to hear about someone who perseveres! In a world of a lazy young generation, only moved by video games and the latest "Rock Band" it is comforting to hear of someone who strives for the best even in the worst situation. John, you are incredible for embracing your disability and using painting to express your emotions. Bravo.

Comment #8 posted by Mandy (not verified) 4 years 45 weeks ago.

Wow! Great job, John. Amazing story. Stay strong!

Comment #9 posted by Anonymous (not verified) 4 years 45 weeks ago.

Great story! I enjoyed reading it and just keeps my faith going and i hope you're able to receive all gods blessings. btw are the paintings for sale??

Comment #10 posted by Anonymous (not verified) 4 years 46 weeks ago.

great story! I really enjoyed reading this story a lot. I think it's great that john never gave up or felt discouraged. Going through what he went through is a big life changing process. And I think it's great that john never felt alone, sad or confused and wondered why what he's going through occured to him. God bless him, his wife and son. I wish them all the best.And god bless him, I hope he continues to stay strong, focused, driven and more determined than he is today.

Comment #11 posted by nme0010 (not verified) 4 years 46 weeks ago.

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