Artist loses sight but keeps creating

Editor's note: This story was written as a part of the Observer's Explorer Post program, which gives high school students the chance to learn about journalism.

Rita Reed is a passionate painter, and has been practicing this gift since she was a very young girl. Rita says she would incessantly draw as a kid.

"I was born with creativity in my genes,” she said. “When I was 5, I drew on sidewalks with water in a mayonnaise jar."

She earned a master’s degree in fine arts at Winthrop University.

In 2010, Reed was diagnosed with macular degeneration and became legally blind. She can only see through the corners of her eyes.

Getting the diagnosis was a crushing time for her. The more she thought about her disease, the deeper she went into depression.

"I went through two years of terrible anger,” she said. “This is my life. I'm an artist. I see."

Eyes are the artist’s way of discovering and creating, but that was taken away from Reed.

Before Reed’s visual impairment she was a historical painter, bringing history to life.

She was commissioned by NASA, the Navy, and Coast Guard.

Being a realist, she was able to capture the finest details in her paintings that give a genuine ambiance of the setting.

Before her disease she had a keen eye for beauty. One of her favorite experiences was creating the painting “15:16 hours,” where she tried to capture the beauty of a compass housing.

"The light was absolutely brilliant," Reed said She had never been on a boat before. "I was scared as a cat."

Yet it was a great experience. Reed says that the most rewarding part of her passion is creating.

Now in her new chapter of life, being visually impaired, Reed said “I have discovered, that being legally blind or not I am an artist! I cannot, not create.”

She found a new style of painting that fit to her current situation: “Abstract Impressionism.”

“I paint human emotions,” she said. “The canvas and the paint are the way to express my feelings.”

This style of art allows her to continue to pursue her dream.

"It’s a double a negative...that creates a positive," Reed said. “I try to paint hope in various forms.”

Reed’s husband, Dan Robinson, a writer, is among many that help keep her going. He has been there for her through thick and thin.

Reed treasures Robinson’s never-ending optimism and love for life. His presence and inspirational words have been the beacon of light during the darkest of times.

Reed has also started teaching classes at the Mint Museum.

Mint Museum Director of Learning and Engagement Cheryl Palmer compliments Reed’s unique style of teaching.

“She is still an outstanding teacher, very gifted in teaching technique and very supportive of students exploring various subject matters and styles,” she said.

Her newest paintings get attention through social media because of the spiritual message and connection they portray.

Susan Dawkins, one of Reed’s painting students, said her art is remarkable.

“My husband and I bought two of Rita’s paintings last year and they still amaze me,” she said. “Technically brilliant -- almost like calligraphy. I have one that seems to speak to me of freedom, hope, and joy, in the midst of life’s chaos; blue sky after all the storms.”