The Artist and Double Vision

"This image above is close to as I see with double vision"

First, before you read my story, I want you to know that I believe that everything that happens to us is a gift. As human beings we can take events that seem unfair and uncomfortable into an experience of discovering our gifts to give to the world.

As a child my left eye drifted to the corner when my vision was compromised and tired. It was not brought to the attention of my parents until my 2nd grade teacher mentioned it to my parents. (When eyes cross, wander to one side or are higher or lower than their mate, the condition is known as strabismus or Lazy Eye.) I was 8 years old when I had my first eye operation. I am grateful to the March of Dimes who paid for this operation since my parents did not have income to pay for it. I am one of seven children. It was a struggle for our parents to keep us in clothes, to feed us and pay for needed medical. Our father was a carpenter and our mother babysat other peoples children and taught piano lessons for extra income.

Funny how memories of events like this can be so vivid in our minds for years. It was a scary place to be at the hospital without my mother there. The other children needed her attention too. The hospital put me in a baby crib. Can you imagine how insulting that was at age 8? I cried myself to sleep. In the surgery room they cut my long eye lashes to little stubs. They never grew back as long and lush again. At that time they kept people in the hospital longer than they do now days. When I got to go home depended on when my parents could have transportation to pick me up.

This is an apparatus I had to wear after surgery. A metal patch with little holes. So many vivid memories of going to school and kids calling me "Bug Eye". Afterwards mom and I had many visits to the eye Doctor where they taught me exercises to strengthen my eyes. with instructions to mom how to work with me to improve the eye muscles. In addition I would have to wear a patch over my good eye to force the weaker eye to work harder.

Throughout school I had problems of not being able to accurately see things. It took me a long time to read a book because I would see two lines for every written line in a book. Also sports were a problem. For instance playing tennis I would see two balls coming toward me not knowing which one to try to hit. Playing in school sports was not my favorite thing to do.

It was not until I was about 18-19 yrs when I had the second operation. I was having horrible headaches and could not focus my eyes. The Dr.s at the Palo Alto Clinic discovered that my brain was making me think I was seeing one image where in truth my eyes were seeing two.

In between the following years there were about 5 more operations of trying to pull the eye muscles together to see as one image. Sometimes there would be an operation on the right eye or the left eye and sometimes both eyes. The Dr.s believed that by pulling the eye muscles out farther apart and then slowly bringing them back in that it would solve the problem. NOT! Seeing two images has been my life experience to for years. The Doctors then said they were not welling to do any more work on my eyes in fear it would demolish what they had done.


Often, when people found out about my double vision they would usually ask, "Do you drive?" "Yes I do!" If I have a problem I just close one eye. Most of my life I would see two images of the same car in front of me and two images of the traffic on the other side of the road coming toward me. Driving at night time I would end up closing my left eye to safely drive.

Creating art, experimenting with crafting and painting has always filled my life with joy. In the first two years of college I did not take any art classes even though I had wanted to. It just did not happen thinking I could not thrive financially. Then after being married when our first daughter was in Kindergarten, I looked into going back to college to study art. At that time in California it was only $5 a unit for classes. I went around to all the local bay area junior colleges searching for the best art teachers to study with. At one point a couple teachers told me why not go to art college and helped me get accepted at California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland CA on a scholarship. I majored in painting even though my counselor said I should major in design. ( Kind of interesting that the last 22 years I was doing a lot of design work in metal)

Every Semester the painting instructor required us to create a self portrait. I painted this piece above. The instructor said "Why did you paint yourself that way? " I replied, that this is how I saw. He replied, "From now on I want you to paint how you see with double vision ".

Painting from live models was fun and exciting. They usually were several long hour sessions with the sitter. This one below was the first painting with a live model. As the day went on, my eyes were so very tired that the images kept separating making it very difficult to paint. What I saw at the beginning of the painting was not what I saw at the end of a painting session. I got sick to my stomach and developed a headache. Often toward completing the piece, it was hard to know where to place the paintbrush. There were other double image paintings created at CCAC, but some of the other students asked me if they could have one. At that time we did not have smart phones to take pictures so I do not have a record of those.

The next semester my painting teacher asked me to not make a joke about painting a self portrait and try to seriously do one of how I see. Where the two images merged there appeared a bubble like image that popped out.

It was important to me to try to understand what my brain and eyes were doing by painting these double images.

I fought the double vision problem often closing one eye while drawing or painting. Even though it was interesting to explore the double image painting, it was physically difficult. As a painting became close to being finished, instead of seeing two images of everything, when I looked at the painting I saw four images of everything. I believe that I have only created about 12 paintings as I see with double images.

Fred and I moved from CA to WA before I was able to finish at CCAC. We bought a house in a little town called Brier. It was always my dream to have an art studio to create and teach in. The builder of our house built the shell of the studio and Fred and I did all the finish work. I remember how we put the floor in and I had to wait 24 hours for it to set before I moved all my art supplies, tables and paintings we brought with us from CA.

While at CCAC I developed carpal tunnel and tendonitis. For me to make it through 6 or more hours of drawing and painting classes I was taking mega doses of Advil just to get through each day. When I finally got into the new studio to work the pain in my right had was so intense I could not pick up a pencil to draw or paint. I did not want that to keep me from being creative though. I enrolled in a class with an artist who painted with watercolor inks. I loved it and exploded with new works on watercolor paper. The process I developed then was to go into the studio, practice my Tai Chi, then with my eyes closed I would take a wax resist tool and draw on white watercolor paper. Then use watercolor inks to intuitively paint followed by placing healing energy into the wet surface of the painting.When I look at these now I realize that intuitively I was painting double images. Please go to this link to see some of the watercolor ink artwork.

I will be writing a future blog about the "Quest for Why" and other series with painting with watercolor inks and wax resist.

I believe that I even though at the time I was not aware of what intuitively I was creating, these abstract paintings also have some double images. My eyes are a gift to me in expressing life as I see it and sharing the creative experience with others. All the creating art is healing for the artists and hopefully for the public.

While living in Brier WA, I experimented with a few more double image paintings. I wanted to be clear on what I was seeing. It is very exhausting to always not be able to judge where to place a cup of tea on a table, break the cup and have a mess to clean up. Or often I would misjudge where to walk and trip off a curb or walk into a wall.

"Double Contentment" Watercolor of my daughter Erin Foster and her new baby Siobhan Foster. This piece won an award in a national competition. People thought that I was trying to paint a woman rocking her child.

Watercolor of our daughter Erin

My eyes and brain could not handle creating double image paintings anymore. It has been many years since I have tried to paint that way.

Three years ago I had cataract surgery with the best eye Dr. Resham Chahal. Even though the surgery did not involve fixing double vision, after both eyes with new cataracts a miracle happened. I stopped seeing two images of the cars in front of me and coming toward me.

He was the first Dr. that kept telling me not to give up. He sent me to UC Davis Medical, the UC SF Medical who said they would not do the surgery to finish correcting the double vision. Both said it was in my brain. But Dr. Chahal sent me to Standford where they said yes they would try.

The last surgery was 2 years ago. While there was some improvement I still see two televisions. There is a range between the distant seeing and the close up seeing where I still see double images.

I have 20/20 vision and prefer not using glasses to see. While creating the metal artwork, especially the Kimono Series, it was hard to use these thick prism glasses. They distort what I see and often I would hurt myself hammering a nail that was not there. Not so fun to hit a finger instead of the little nails to hold the kimonos together on the wooden support.

So, the last resort for me, even though I do not like prism glasses, I am back to wearing them again. Even though I still see distortion, it helps me to do the painting. I still sometimes misjudge where to put a glass or plate due to the distortion of the glasses. Good news is I do not walk into as many walls accidentally as I used to. Life is what it is and as long as I am in joy painting that is what counts the most.

What is Diplopia?

Diplopia is the simultaneous perception of two images of a single object that may be displaced horizontally or vertically in relation to each other.[1] Also called double vision, it is a loss of visual focus under regular conditions, and is often voluntary. However, when occurring involuntarily, it results in impaired function of the extra ocular muscles, where both eyes are still functional, but they cannot turn to target the desired object.[2] Problems with these muscles may be due to mechanical problems, disorders of the neuromuscular junction, disorders of the cranial nerves (III, IV, and VI) that innervate the muscles, and occasionally disorders involving the supranuclear oculomotor pathways or ingestion of toxins.[3]

Diplopia can be one of the first signs of a systemic disease, particularly to a muscular or neurological process,[4] and it may disrupt a person's balance, movement, or reading abilities.[2][5]

Thank you for coming to my blog for the stories of my adventures in the healing and art.

#doublevision #prismglasses #doublevisionportraits #painting #sculpture #watercolorinks

#catherinefoster #art #artists #diplopia #metalkimonos #abstractpainting #sculpture #oilpainting #WC #brierWA #rioVistaCA

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