MY ART STORY by

Tammy Ruggles

Tollesboro
New York

Grazing.JPG

Photo of a horse.

Grazing by Tammy Ruggles: "A horse I captured not far from my home." Photo courtesy of artist

When a lifelong blinding disease known as Retinitis Pigmentosa, or RP, forced me to retire at age 40 from my chosen profession in 2001, I didn't know what I would do with the rest of my life. Writing had always been a hobby for me, but I took a chance on getting something published, and that launched my second career, as a professional writer.

Art had always been a passion too, but my vision was getting too bad to keep sketching, so in 2013 I was ready to give art up for good until a Facebook friend named Sonja suggested I try finger painting. I was skeptical, but I tried it, and that worked too. I'm fortunate to say that some of my finger paintings have been published in literary journals and art magazines, and have been exhibited in two local art galleries so far.

Photography is perhaps the most surprising development for me. I'd secretly yearned to practice fine art photography from a young age, but as my vision decreased, I realized that was an impossible dream. I couldn't see in a darkroom, nor could I read settings on a camera. The world is a blur. I was resigned to taking family snapshots. Then in 2013, borrowing courage from my finger painting experience, I purchased my first point-and-shoot digital camera with auto settings. This changed everything! I realized I didn't have to see to take interesting or pretty pictures. The camera would do it for me. All I had to do was transfer the images to my 47-inch computer monitor and choose which ones I wanted to keep, meaning the ones I could see the best, or distinguish. I prefer black-and-white because I see best in high contrast. On my big computer monitor, I can add even more contrast with a photo editor.

Yes, the world is a blur around me, but today's technology allows me to have a profession in the arts. Some say that my visual impairment actually helps define my style. I have no choice but to agree with that.

I am living proof that the arts can be more than just casual pursuits in life. The arts can be life changers.

Tammy Ruggles
Tollesboro, KY