Carolyn StevensContributing Columnist

A couple years ago, I began a watercolor painting on a sheet of YUPO, an acrylic “paper” that allows the watercolor to do exciting things. It’s a full sheet, 22” x 30,” and too large for me to handle easily. I had started painting a cat and thought she was good enough to finish. Determination came into play.

A major problem was that I hadn’t planned the subject beforehand. The cat was too far to the left of the paper and she was looking toward the left, making an awkward composition. Intending to balance the subject, I added a kitten close to her side and put them with butterflies in a flower garden. From that poor beginning, a title of the unfinished work led me through a very bright and busy painting: “Tom and His Mom On Safari” That bold and playful work will be displayed at the 23rd Annual Piqua Fine Art Exhibit, which will be open to the public Friday, Sept. 11, at the Apple Tree Gallery.

When I was about 60, I learned I’d developed ARMD, age-related macular degeneration. I believed my days of living and loving art were at an end. I was assured by an ophthalmologist that I would go blind — not might, but would be blind. I sorted through the art supplies I’d accumulated over 40 years; I’d tried some of everything before my wide range of interests boiled down to water media. I gave away books and materials I believed I couldn’t use again. Fortunately, I was guided to a Dayton specialist whose skill and knowledge have saved enough of my vision that I’m still able to paint — not as well probably, but the joy it gives me is no less. (I’ll admit that it’s one heck of a whole lot harder!)

Through an art supply catalog, under $100, I bought a “natural light” and magnifier on a moveable stand, which have been a tremendous help. More recently, under $40, I bought a small magnifier that clips onto my glasses. With that, I can still read! With both of those aids together, I can play in my watercolor! My stiff and painful hands can still hold a brush. If you are able to visit the exhibit, please look at my cats and see the whiskers I was able to achieve with the tiniest brush. Don’t miss the Karner Blue butterflies; they live only where blue Lupines grow..

The downside of ARMD is the intraocular injections every four to six weeks, which stop the bleeding that causes vision loss. I’m very fortunate that the treatment remains effective. Because the medication, Lucentis, is quite expensive, we receive financial assistance through the Chronic Disease Fund. When that first doctor told me I’d go blind, I told him that someone would invent or discover something. No, he said, that wouldn’t happen. I just love to be right!.

The morning of the artist registration deadline, I finished the painting. As RB drove me to the framer, I saw a little bead of color that had run down the paper. Nothing to do but turn around, go back home and remove the errant drop with the tip of a brush. I’m a picky painter and I insist that the final result is as perfect as possible. I spent the two previous days “picking!” At least one accepted painting must be offered for sale. I’d planned to put a price on “Safari” and as a second entry, I’d show a painting of three little girls, titled “The Cousins.” The girls represented our granddaughters and I felt an attachment to it. Then, reflecting on the two years spent trying to finish those cats, I changed my mind. I can reproduce those little girls with no problem, but I know I could never, ever duplicate “Tom and His Mom On Safari.”

Carolyn Stevens may be contacted via mail at 719 Park Ave., Piqua, or by email at

Carolyn Stevens may be contacted via mail at 719 Park Ave., Piqua, or by email at