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“I make art to be an encouragement and inspiration to myself and others. I love when I can inspire others to live and to discover wonder in themselves.”
As a young man, Charles Blackwell’s visual art studies at Sacramento City College were cut short after he fell head-first down a steep slope, damaging his eyesight. An artist since a young age, Charles is now legally blind, only able to use some peripheral vision. He dropped out of school, struggling to reconcile his artistic dreams with his unexpected disability. “I thought, ‘Man, what did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening to me?’”
Charles redirected his studies toward sociology and social work, but after graduate school struggled to find employment. “There’s more than just being able to go through daily life after losing your eyesight,” he says. “It comes down to an emotional side. There’s a lot of rejection. Boy, I got hit hard.”
When he went blind, Charles’ doctor told him, “take your defect and make it an asset.” Charles has grown to embody this phrase, continuing his lifelong passion of making art by using an entirely new style, freedom, and way of working to compensate for his limited vision. He creates his artwork using primarily ink and canvas, leaning in closely to see through his peripherals, and using rich, vibrant colors.
Charles is now living in Oakland, California. He has won numerous service awards for his volunteer work and advocacy for the arts, and has authored three books: Redemption Beyond Blindness; Fiery Responses to Love’s Calling; and Is, the Color of Mississippi Mud. Charles joined ArtLifting in August, 2016, after being referred through the community arts studio in San Francisco's Tenderloin District. Now, his works are accessible across the United States, adorning walls, tote bags, notebooks, and phone cases. He hopes that by sharing his artwork he can increase his income, obtain stable housing, and continue to inspire as many people as possible.
ArtLifting champions artists impacted by disabilities and housing insecurity by connecting their art with socially-conscious customers . Learn more here.