“It was the first time that someone had asked me to draw how I see”
Artist, Amy Izat, tells OT about the escapism of drawing after she experienced sight loss following a brain bleed at the age of 20
When I had my subarachnoid haemorrhage, I was working as an au pair in Sardinia. My plan was to learn Italian before starting at Charles Cecil Studios in Florence. The stroke was caused by an undiagnosed arteriovenous malformation (AVM). When I am looking at someone’s face I can’t see a whole face anymore – including my own. I can only focus on little things at a time.
Due to the area of the brain where the AVM was located and the size of the bleed, I was given a 50:50 chance of survival. I have been extraordinarily lucky, which I why I never complain too much about my vision because I am so happy that I am still here.
Windows of the Soul has been an incredible experience. I have met other people who have lost sight and experienced all of the difficulties that come with that. It was the first time that someone had asked me to draw how I see things.
I had this idea of drawing how I usually do using one of the traditional methods where you use a plumb line or your thumb to get measurements to come up with an outline. I drew a selection of birds. Each bird symbolises a different part of my journey.
I gave it to a friend to rub out the bits of the drawing that I no longer see. Standing back, there is a very obvious area that has been lost. There was one time I brought in two birds – there was a story being told between the two figures. He burst into tears – he said ‘You have nothing more to prove Amy. I can’t rub this one out.’ But I insisted. It is not always a negative losing something. That is the point I am trying to get across.
Coming through this trauma made me incredibly sensitive. It has been the making of me as an artist
Windows of the Soul has allowed me to see that having imperfections in your work can actually make something very perfect in its own unique and powerful way. By taking away the pressure of having to create an exact copy of a subject, I can now find a way of working that is more true to how I now see and I can let go of that pressure to achieve perfection. I am also able to share my experience with viewers who are going through a loss making it less of a lonely journey when they look at my work.
I have had quite a few people interested in buying pieces from Windows of the Soul. I’m really flattered but I have decided to keep them because this is my first major exhibition. They mean so much to me – each drawing is a part of the last seven years.
I would like to help people who might be going through a similar thing and have lost that sense of hope. If you keep fighting, something amazing will come out of any negative situation.
Northumberland fine artist, Amy Izat, 28, contributed to the 2022 exhibition, Windows of the Soul, which explored the visual experiences of those living with sight loss.