Before I talk about my trip to Boise, I wanted to mention one of the tools I took with me. In a post a few years ago, I mentioned the trouble I was encountering with my near vision. At the time, I wondered how much longer I would be able to work on small-scale models. The sad truth was that in the year that followed, painting only got more difficult. Even with corrective lenses, I found that by the end of the day my ability to do close work was non-existent. My unintended hiatus from the studio may have been due to the realization that the book would never be completed without a period of single-minded focus, but my growing frustration with my vision – and the resulting headaches – certainly played their part.
What I did not expect was just how bad that vision had deteriorated while I was away. Working on the computer, where I can enlarge images to fill my 27″ Macintosh monitor, hid the problem. When I returned to the studio, it was clear that even with reading glasses, the situation was not remotely workable. Not only were they not strong enough, the magnification was wrong for the distance I tended to hold things in order to paint them (which is quite a bit closer than people typically hold a book). I also needed them all the time, not just for the smallest details. That meant that I didn’t take them off, so when I looked at my desk for the next color or a specific tool, this is what I saw.
Where is that bottle of Smoke Gray again?
I already wear progressive bifocals with a far and a mid-range correction. But for work, what I needed was the correct magnification for really close work, plus a mid-range so I could glance over at the tools on my desk, and a distance so that I could see the pressure reading on the compressor or the temperature reading on the kiln (or know which of my children was at the door to interrupt me). Most progressives change from far to near starting at the top and going to the bottom. I needed the order changed so that the closest was in the central part of the lens, since that was their primary function.
Thankfully, my optometrist was willing to work with me to develop a specialized lens for studio work. I would encourage anyone with age-related vision issues to do this. In my case, I took my work and some tools and had her watch how I work. She then measured distances, and came up with a design that would work. She cautioned that we might have to make a few attempts to get the correction placement and the transitions just right, but so far it seems the lab got them right with the first try.
Like any progressive lens, they have taken a bit of time to adjust. I realize now that I really should have started the process much earlier. The glasses (which are pictured at the top with Taboo) arrived the day before I attended Christi’s workshop. Struggling with a completely different lens configuration at a workshop was not the smartest thing I ever did! And I was only marginally better when I left the next day for Boise. But little by little, I find my productivity returning now that I am losing my fear that what I think I see as I paint may be quite different from reality!