‘Line of Sight’ film tells powerful story about finding strength in art
Painter John Bramblitt, who is blind, paints a portrait of his son. (Photo by Stephen Menick.)
In his short film, “Line of Sight,” Stephen Menick takes us inside the life of John Bramblitt, a talented painter who is blind. Bramblitt lost his eyesight due to severe epilepsy, and soon after found himself filled with despair.
“The first year that I lost my eyesight, I didn’t do any work. It didn’t even occur to me to try to draw, and I had drawn all my life. I was in the deepest, darkest hole,” Bramblitt says in the film. “I really felt like I had no worth anymore. Whenever you lose your eyesight, there is a disconnect with people. I wanted to let people know that I was still me, that I was still in here, and finally I knew that I had to get my hands dirty. I had to get back into art, even if it was wrong, even if it was crazy.”
The first time he delved back into art, it had a powerful effect on him. “I had this weird feeling, and I almost felt like I was getting sick or something. And then it occurred to me — it was hope.”
Bramblitt’s story is a good example of a Restorative Narrative — a story that shows how people and communities are learning to rebuild and recover after difficult times.
In a piece for Creative Cow, Menick explains the story behind the film, which he originally produced for PBS. Mennick, who is a filmmaker and three-time Emmy nominee, said he was amazed by Bramblitt’s talents as both an artist and a storyteller:
I’m amazed that an artist, any artist, can look at what she’s painting then direct her eyes back at the canvas and paint a memory — even so fresh a memory. Bramblitt’s memory is long. He feels a face and builds a three-dimensional model in his mind. Once that’s done, the subject can walk away. (The only time Jack ever “sat” for us — he was pretty fidgety — was when his father showed us how he feels a face to see it in his mind.) If, in a painting, “I want somebody to look to the left or to the right, I don’t have to have that person actually do that because I have this 3D model.” And the model sticks. “Someone whose face I felt five years ago — I can still paint them. And they never age, which is a great thing.”
This ability to see with the hands and pass it on to the rest of the world — it’s got to be part of any conversation about a Bramblitt painting. His very special art has brought him the recognition, the buyers, the emails that fill his inbox, the invitations to speak at the Met and the producers who come to Denton and ask him to do the same thing over and over again for the camera. But are these the things that get him through the night? I don’t think so. I think it’s the painting. “Painting,” Bramblitt said, “forces you to live brushstroke to brushstroke. You’re not thinking about what happened in the past. You’re not thinking about what you might have lost. You’re only thinking about that one moment.”
You can watch Menick’s film about Bramblitt here: