Blind artist Lynne Wastell leaves Alice Springs due to crime

Home Arts Blind artist Lynne Wastell leaves Alice Springs due to crime
Blind artist Lynne Wastell leaves Alice Springs due to crime

Artist Lynne Wastell has constantly sought new ways to share her unique view of the world since being diagnosed with a rare degenerative eye disease in her 30s.

“You’ve got to try things and not be afraid,” she said.

“I’m always happy when I’m painting.

“I’m just so lucky to have that.”

Colours and shapes

Ms Wastell thought everyone saw the world in the same way that she did until she was diagnosed.

“I didn’t know any different,” she said.

“It’s just a thing that you have and you’ve got to deal with. There’s worse things in life.”

It wasn’t until she obtained her licence at the age of 30 while living in London and “started crashing into things” that she realised she had a vision problem.

A hallway is filled with multiple watercolour paintings featuring bright and vibrant colours.
Ms Wastell’s home features many of her watercolour works.(ABC Alice Springs: Evan Wallace)

Multiple scares prompted Ms Wastell to see an eye specialist who diagnosed her with Stargardt’s disease, a condition which stops the macula [the central part of the retina] from working properly.

While the disease has left Ms Wastell legally blind, it didn’t stop her from living independently and pursuing her art.

A woman holds a team flag while standing in a grandstand.
Ms Wastell at this year’s AFL match between Melbourne and Port Adelaide in Alice Springs.(Supplied: Lynne Wastell)

“My eyesight is not defined, so I see colours and shapes,” Ms Wastell said.

“It enables me still to get around places … I’ve got a cane that I can take with me but I’m pretty good at going around on my own.”

A shift to watercolour

Art has been Ms Wastell’s passion for as long as she can remember.

She has made a shift to working exclusively with watercolour in the past two years after spending most of her artistic career painting with oils.

The change came after a bout of illness which prompted her to experiment with a new medium while bedridden.

“You can only watch TV for a certain amount of time and I had some watercolour … and I thought maybe I can get some paints and start painting in the bedroom,” she said.

“And it just came, you know.”

A watercolour painting of  bird is being prepared next to two glasses with brushes on a painting board.
A new piece of work is underway in Lynne Wastell’s studio.(ABC Alice Springs: Evan Wallace)

Technology also plays a key role in how Ms Wastell brings her subjects to her life, especially dogs and other animals.

“I’d love to do landscapes, but I can’t really, I like painting buildings and I take photographs with my big iPad,” she said.

“Otherwise, I’ll look for big pictures of animals or anything and I can copy them or try and do as close as I can to that.”

A water colour painting of a cockatiel.
Wildlife and animals are Ms Wastell’s favourite subjects.(ABC Alice Springs: Evan Wallace)

Left shaken

Ms Wastell has called Alice Springs home on and off for the past 25 years.

It’s a part of Australia which holds an important place in her heart.

“I’m lucky here, I’ve got some fantastic friends,” she said.

“But just as far as my independence goes, I’m feeling very vulnerable … because of my eyesight, I get scared.

I had an altercation last year, which made me very frightened.”

She said two men aggressively blocked her path while she was out shopping.

She said she was relieved a bus driver noticed the situation, hopped off the bus, and “frightened the two guys away”.

A watercolour painting of a friendly old scruffy dog.
Dogs are Ms Wastell’s favourite animals to paint.(ABC Alice Springs: Evan Wallace)

Ms Wastell is now fearful to leave her home and plans to return to the Adelaide Hills early next year.

“I got really scared because I’d never been put in that situation before,” she said.

“Do you scream? What do you do? I don’t know.

“Being a human and going out and enjoying myself, it’s sort of taken that away, and I shouldn’t live in fear, because you can’t do that. But I am quite scared.”

Ms Wastell is looking to her art and rich palette of experiences as she prepares to “head back home”.

“I’m lucky enough that I can still see colours,” she said.

“And that’s the most important thing to me.”

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