Speaking with Blind Artist John Bramblitt at JMZ Walls

September 28, 2017

Last week, Texas-based John Bramblitt, a professional artist who lost his vision in 2001, visited Bushwick, where he collaborated on a huge mural with Rubin 415 for JMZ Walls. While he was here, travel and street photographer Karin du Maire had the opportunity to interview him and capture him, along with Rubin 415, in action.

Can you tell us, John, a bit about how you got into art?

I think I could draw before I could walk! Art was always a big part of my life. And growing up, I was sick a lot. I had kidney problems. I had severe epilepsy that kept getting worse. All the way through high school, I was literally out of school half the time with something. And art made a bad day better, and it was a great way to celebrate a good day…and so I did art every day and I took every art class I could.

You are now creating art as a blind artist. When did you lose your eyesight?

I lost my eyesight in college, and I thought I lost art, as well. But I learned how to use my hands to do everything that a person’s eyes do. And so now I draw with lines I can touch and feel. When I was sighted, I used to feel excited if a drawing or painting that I did looked like someone. But now it’s more important that it feels like someone… that it is that person. And that’s where the colors and emotions come in.

You just painted your first mural. What was the experience like? How does it differ from working in your studio?

It’s been a great experience! As far as I know, I am the first blind painter to do a mural. It’s my first mural, and it’s been incredible. I’m a studio artist; I work with museums quite a bit. I do commissions all the time. But what I do is paint! Yet, this is so much different. You’re on a wall that’s so much bigger. I’m not going to roll it up and send it away when it’s done. It lives there on that wall.

Does anything in particular about the experience stand out?

One of the things that made this so special is that I love to meet other artists and be around people who are just as obsessed with art as I am. In this project I’ve been able to work with Tony — Rubin 415 – and the whole crew here has been so energetic. For me it’s a dream come true to be able to work with artists who are passionate about what they do. It’s been amazing!

And what about the community? Lots of people have been passing by. How have they reacted?

That’s been my favorite part of this entire experience. I’ve painted live before, but this is a completely different experience. During the whole time I was putting this up, people were coming over. This is where they live, and I feel as though I am painting it in their home! The feedback has been so positive! People seem grateful that you are making their community more beautiful and bringing energy to it. They come over and hug us! Today a little boy stopped by and added a bit to the mural – and so we have one more street artist in the making!

Now that you’ve painted your first mural, can you tell us a bit about what your plans are for the future? Do you plan to paint more murals?

I do. I expect to be painting a mural in Dallas to help a non-profit. And I will be working more with museums. October is National Disability Awareness Month, and I will be traveling all over the country. And I would definitely love to do more mural work. The impact it has on the community is incredible. You just can’t beat it!

Photos by Karin du Maire; interview conducted by Karin du Maire and edited by Lois Stavsky

Support for this inspiring project has been provided by See Now.

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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