“Artist continues creating art after going blind”


(KUSA) – Jim Stevens will tell you that his art speaks to him.

He sits in his studio crouching over a desk.

An artist in Wheat Ridge says people are always surprised by his work and more surprised that he is the one who creates it, especially since he is blind.

He works with tiny tools that make thousands of tiny holes in prehistoric ivory.  He said, “I can actually feel the outline with my fingertips.”   That is how he keeps in touch with the process.

It is a process that he can’t see.

Jim Stevens joined the army when he was seventeen. He was shot in the head in Vietnam.  Stevens said, “It resulted in bullet fragments that are still in my head and migraines. About twenty-four years after I was shot I had a bad migraine that caused a stroke in my cerebral cortex.”  That stroke caused Jim Stevens to lose nearly all of his eyesight in about thirty minutes.”

He never thought he’d be able to do his art again, but Jim Stevens wouldn’t give up.  He said, “I guess the Army doesn’t train a quitter.”

Now with the two degrees of vision that he has left, a lot of practice, and the help of five different special lenses that he wears, he’s back in the studio doing what he loves.

It takes as long as 900 hours to finish one piece of this special art.   It’s called scrimshaw.  Stevens said, “There are only a handful of art forms native to North America, and scrimshaw is one of them.  It is the oldest.”

Jim Stevens says while the art form stirs a lot of questions in people, the artist brings even more questions.  He said, “I’ll be standing there with my cane and people will look at me and then look at the art and say, ‘who did this’?”

He says he is grateful that he can answer them boldly that war took his eyesight but it couldn’t take his passion for art or for appreciating even the smallest things in life.  He said, “This is perfect for me…the dots are little…and little is all I can see.  Everyone is creative…this was my way to be creative.  I lost it and I got it back.”


NBC TV, 9 News

June 11, 2006

Cheryl Preheim