I am Barbara Mangus-Hopkins, a visually impaired watercolor artist who has been painting for many years. I graduated from John Herron Art School many years ago. I started out painting landscapes in oil, but one day my three sons decided to paint the walls in the living room, and then I decided that I should be painting in watercolor.
I am a type 1 diabetic, allergic to all insulin in the world, and was a research patient for Eli Lilly for fifty years; sixty years ago they said I had five years to live, but I fooled them! I have overcome many obstacles in my life, and through all the difficult times, I have continued to paint.
Lilly sent me to many hospitals. I made my hospital room my studio, sold paintings, gave lessons, and made the best of the scene. A few years ago, I started going blind from macular degeneration, and diabetic neuropathy from severe diabetes.
In 2012, I attended Bosma School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 8202 Zionsville Rd., Indianapolis, to learn to live in a darker world. I learned many things and not to worry about my health as I could still paint. The instructors at Bosma teach many things. When students leave school, they can live on their own and have a full life. They learn how to cook, clean, shop, walk around the city, and, most of all, how to use many technical items. I even built a computer from the motherboard up. Many visually impaired and blind people use the computer for many reasons.
I have had many home portrait commissions, including painting nine homes for the manager of the JW Marriott in Indianapolis. Recently, I had a two-month exhibition at the Columbia Club, as well.
How do I paint as a visually impaired artist? I use several magnifying tools. My newest one is a small hand-held device which has a magnifying power of twenty-two. Now I can read price tags, menus, and paint small windows on my home portraits; it is portable and very expensive. I thought it cost $350.00 but my friend asked me, “Do you know how much you paid?” I said no, and she said $760.00. I have a large magnifying lamp that clamps onto the table and I can paint under the magnifying glass.
Monet has always been one of my favorite artists; when he started painting his water lillies, they were white, and, as he grew older and began to loose his vision, the water lillies became very dark red and purple.
I have started painting on leather shoes, corrective shoes, clogs, and purses. A friend said she would not wear her new corrective shoes, and I had to paint them. I told her that I paint pictures, not shoes, so I worked out a formula with Blick Art. I just painted a pair of gardening boots for a nun with the Sisters of Providence. I use acrylic paint with added formula. I have decided that when the time comes and it is harder to see, I will never give up, never, never, never. I will use scented oils in the paint, sniffing my way, lavender for purple, spearmint for green, onion for white, and on and on.
I have painted public art; I painted a full size INDY race car for ART IN MOTION presented by the 500 Festival. The car had scenes of the stands with spectators and INDY cars on one side and FORMULA ONE and NASCAR on the other side. It has been on display downtown during the month of May. Also, I painted two foam and plaster dogs (I named them Noah and Buddy) for a Purdue Vet School fundraiser. Noah was auctioned for $1000.00, and Buddy for $900.00. I painted a bust of a Roller Derby lady for a breast cancer fundraiser at the Fairgrounds, and I did a Chair/Stool for the Lafayette Art Museum, called a CHAIRITY event. Recently, I donated a painting of the Tippecanoe County Courthouse for an event called “Under the Dome,” sponsored by the Tippecanoe County Bar Association. It feels so good to give.
Before I close, I should mention that I have painted several churches. Prints of the paintings were made for church fundraising. I believe that the more churches I paint, the longer I will be able to see.
Enjoy life, KEEP PAINTING, GOD BLESS, AND DO NOT GIVE UP.”