Painting is a wonderful way to express yourself. For artist Arthur Ellis, when he lost his sight 10 years ago, his work changed dramatically. Art has now become a means for Arthur to come to terms with the visual hallucinations which he experiences, and is also a powerful way for other people to understand Charles Bonnet Syndrome (visual hallucinations).
Arthur, aged 70, tells us about his experience, and how art has helped him…
“When I was a child I instinctively began drawing sketches, which gained a lot of attention from my family. I went to Art college in the 60’s and graduated with a Diploma in Art and Design – Fine Art, but to keep the wolf from the door I took an alternative career in print finishing. However I still continued to produce commissioned artwork when I got a chance.
Life changed when I contracted meningitis, aged 59. I had an intense pain in my forehead, so intense I felt like I was going to collapse. Eventually I did - luckily it was in the GP’s surgery. I lost all of my sight, which lead to visual hallucinations; lost most of my hearing; and my balance has also been severely affected. I am now more reliant on tactile art and often visualise different painters and their styles and try to reflect this in my artwork. I have also had to adopt new techniques as a result of my condition. I try to draw what I now “see” with varying degrees of success.
I knew nothing about the condition (Charles Bonnet Syndrome) at all when I started experiencing visual hallucinations. When I was in hospital, I was told to keep quiet about my visual hallucinations as I may have been taken away (!) so for a while I did what I was told. Thankfully, a quick-thinking nurse found a link on the internet and suggested I might have been suffering from CBS. I knew the hallucinations weren’t really there, but they were so lifelike. It reached a very disturbing climax when I was in Neuro-Rehab. This was probably to do with gradually understanding my sight had gone completely, and all I was left with was the scary hallucinations. For example, sitting over a precipice above a rocky valley, looking down at large cats and all kinds of other animals. Although it can be disturbing when it reaches a pitch, it does calm down and you must continually remind yourself it isn’t reality, it’s just your brain playing tricks on you.
I would encourage people to speak to others with the condition, as there certainly are similarities between experiences. Try to embrace the images, as I have done. Some are fantastic, once you appreciate they are not real – and they at least give you a show nethertheless!”
Arthur’s experiences may differ from your own, but if you’re experiencing hallucinations and think they may be related to your vision, we can help. Call our information line on 0141 332 4632 to talk to our team or download our leaflet on Charles Bonnet Syndrome to find out more. You can also visit Arthur Ellis’s official website to discover his amazing art at http://www.blindartist.co.uk/