From Visually Impaired to Visual Addict

Discover how Devon based Visual Artist Paul Stretton-Stephens became a ‘Visual Addict’ after being registered blind for 8 years.
This remarkable story is one of persistence, determination, and is nothing short of a miracle!

 

 

One April morning in 2015 while working as a Senior Educational Leader in Valencia, Spain, Paul awoke to one of life’s most dreaded fears. He had lost his sight. Everything had become a dazzling fog. All he could make out were shapes and movement.

After visiting many specialists throughout Europe, Paul was dealing with the news that his cone and rod dystrophy were untreatable.

Initially, only Paul's left eye was affected according to the diagnosis, and the right eye's condition and timing were uncertain.

In 2016, Paul and his wife, Lesley, returned to the UK, leaving his much-loved work and all their friends.

Determined not to let his situation beat him, he applied to have some training in voice to text and text to speech software use. After many hours of practice, Paul wrote the first of what turned out to be a trilogy of action thrillers, The Jack Jago Series. He also wrote a one-off story called Ghost School, and a young adult (YA) novel titled Enemies Rising. During writing, Paul needed a trusted assistant, a wonderful editor, and a solid proof-reader.

It took time and creativity to produce the books, and it gave Paul purpose.

While Paul loved to write, he found it very solitary. His previous occupation was full of life and human interaction, and this was the complete opposite. With this in mind, Paul embarked upon some coaching purely by chance. Many years ago, Paul had been a multidisciplinary physical education coach and instructor with the Home Office. He combined his coaching skills, NLP training and management and leadership knowledge to form a coaching practice. This he did via technology to beneficial effect.

A Rehabilitation Officer for the Visually Impaired (ROVI) helped Paul learn to use a cane and suggested a guide dog. He learned to get around with the aid of his wife, Lesley, and his white cane, and they didn’t let his sight impairment stop him from enjoying life. They went to London, where he listened to the musicals; they travelled to Spain and Australia to visit friends and family and much more.

Fast Forward

Fast forward to 2022/23, Paul developed what he calls "flashes of clarity".

“I would get some vision, just for a second or two. Wherever my head was looking, I would see for a moment. It wasn’t always clear, but I could make out what could be the sock that I’m putting on my foot, the back of somebody’s head, the radiator, et cetera. It would last for a second or two and occur once or twice a day. Over a period of months, this increased to about 10 to 12 times a day.”

Paul, now 61 years of age, met with his consultant ophthalmologist and he couldn’t account for this strange occurrence. Paul explored various treatments, including acupuncture, reflexology, herbs, healing, meditation, bio-resonance, and practiced positive thinking. He’d also been taking a supplement called Tru-Niagen once a day for 2 years. And then one day, while taking his daily walk along the seafront with his wife, he experienced a strange sensation in and around his eyes; an unusual pulsating feeling akin to an electrical charge. He stopped and realised he could see. "Everything was strikingly bright. It was like wearing 3D glasses; the grass and foliage were especially prominent."

Paul underwent a series of tests and his vision improved, despite a cataract and continued retinal dystrophy. The consultants didn’t know if the improvement in the vision was temporary. During this time, Paul cautiously explored his surroundings. The fear was that he could return to blindness at any moment. In March 2023, the doctors categorised Paul's vision as stable, which was something he had longed for.

Seed Sown

Paul, himself a military veteran, came across another veteran who had been creating digital portraits of the fallen in Afghanistan. He discovered how to create art using specific equipment and applications, and then purchased and learned how to use them. Since that time, he has been continually honing his artistic skills with the help of an art group and online tutors. Subsequently, he has continued to develop as an artist and now experiments and creates his works using mixed media and acrylics. He also became a member of the Visual Artists Association (VAA).

Paul's Love of Art

Paul often mentions how a visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico influenced him and his love of art.

For those of you who don't know, Santa Fe is in New Mexico in the United States of America. It is the fourth largest city in New Mexico with just under 90,000 inhabitants. UNESCO's Creative Cities Network recognizes the city for its art galleries and installations. It is a renowned city.

Santa Fe pleasantly amazed Paul and his wife, Lesley when they visited for a conference some years ago. The sheer amount of art around the city surprised Paul. He’d realised that Santa Fe had a long history of being a destination for its turquoise and silver jewellery, yet he did not know that it was such a magnet for artists who were influenced in creating an abundance of Western paintings, Native American Indian art, and bronze sculptures.

As Paul and Lesley explored Santa Fe, especially the Canyon Road area, the abundance of galleries and exhibitions mesmerised them. The city has many galleries with traditional and modern art, photography, pottery, sculpture, textiles, and more. The sculptures of children playing in the gallery gardens specifically struck Paul. They appeared real and as if frozen in time. He also loved the historic adobe buildings with their smooth edgings and alien shapes. And the people in those galleries conveyed such a passion for the art surrounding them. They took time to explain details about their artists, their techniques, and a lot more. Nobody felt rushed, and Paul and Lesley had unhindered time to take in all that was on offer.

Paul said, "The scale of art is difficult to put into words. As we walked through the city, everywhere we turned there was turquoise and silver jewellery on offer in abundance or a gallery exhibiting paintings of horses, and another exhibiting paintings of cars, and another of people et cetera et cetera et cetera. These days I hear that there are also art parties going on well into the early hours."

Paul continued, "Prior to my visit to Santa Fe, I think I want to say that I liked and appreciated some art. When I left Santa Fe, I fell in love with and appreciated all art in all its forms. And that love continues to grow and blossom to this day."

Besides Paul’s relationship with Santa Fe, the art of the First Nation People of Australia has also influenced him. He visited many Australian galleries and joined indigenous artists from northern Queensland for hands-on art workshops.

Having lived in Spain for eleven years, it exposed Paul to the inspiring artists of Spain, Dali, Picasso, Gaudi, Sorolla, among many. How Joaquin Sorolla paints water and movement particularly struck Paul.

His love of Photography

Paul has always loved photography since he had his first camera as a young military police officer in Germany. Over the years, he’s literally taken thousands of photos. Prior to his sight loss, Paul was avidly using his Canon Eos 700D to good effect and his subject of choice was the coast, one of his greatest passions. After 8 years of not being able to take a single shot, Paul had to relearn how to use the camera from YouTube. His passion reignited, and he quickly realised that his trusty camera was a little short of pixels for what he planned. After much research, he upgraded to Nikon D850, which he is sure will help him achieve his creative aims. He’s now enjoying taking some wonderful images with his new camera.

 

Today

Paul, who calls himself a 'Visual Addict', creates Fusion Hybrid Art, photography, and digital painting. He has a love for abstract and coastal life. Fusion hybrid Art is his preferred medium, where he currently combines fabric, photography, and digital palettes to produce enhanced images. In their final-state, he produces the image as an original, open-edition or limited-edition print. Paul creates abstract art, as well as seascapes to complement his coastal life photography.

In addition, Paul is always open to discussing how he can add value, through interview, editorial, or on podcasts/radio/tv, so please reach out to him to begin the conversation.

Contact:

Paul Stretton-Stephens

Email: paul@paulstrettonstephens.com

Telephone: +44 (0)7484 130 395

High Resolution Images are available upon request.

 

 

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