Legally blind and painting landscapes

Nancy Jernigan
Nancy Jernigan

Reported by Casey Roman – bio |email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – At 24, Nancy Jernigan lost sight in both her eyes after her optic nerve started leaking fluid. More than two decades later, she's doing something to make life better – paint.

Even after countless surgeries, doctors are still not sure why Nancy suddenly lost her vision. She is not completely blind but considered "legally blind" and she can no longer drive.

Before losing her sight, Nancy painted as a hobby but quickly gave it up after being unable to see much further than a few inches in front of her.

A few years ago, she picked up her paint brushes again and hasn't stopped since.

"I think we take a lot of things for granted," said Nancy.

Thursday, Nancy stood on the downtown waterfront painting the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge.

It's a struggle for her to even pick out her first color. She has to crunch within inches of her selection just to make out the lettering.

Nancy selects the appropriate paint brush by taking individual brushes and pulling them through her lips. She says it's the easiest way to tell the brushes thickness and bristle.

Once her colors are in order, Nancy sat hunched over for hours while attempting to paint the landscape. It seems uncomfortable but for Nancy, the act of painting is nothing but enjoyable.

She uses printed digital pictures to "see" what she cannot.

"I am so thirsty to want to see what's out there," said Nancy. "I can take a trip in my mind and put that on canvas."

She uses a magnifying glass to comb over the photo to pick out the intricacies. Often, she's accompanied by her best friend who helps her understand what she cannot see.

"I think about what other people do see," said Nancy. "When I put the paint brush on the canvass, what comes from the paint brush, is real."

Her paintings are all of "real" places: the pier, the waterfront, pelicans, lakes, etc. Nancy says most people don't give those places a second thought, but she pours over the images as a way to remember.

"Things that people miss on a daily basis that inspire me to want to see," said Nancy.

Nancy says she's not trying to make a profit on her paintings, she simply enjoys it. Recently, she painted a large mural across her son's football field.

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