New Brunswick

Online quiz leads partly blind woman to find happiness through art

Ysabelle Vautour was born partly blind impaired and grew up hating painting, but on New Year's Day she started a 365-day art challenge because of an online quiz.  

'I'm just so excited about things now'

Ysabelle Vautour is an artist who grew up in Grand Barachois, a small Acadien village near Shediac, and now lives in Fredericton. (Sarah Morin/CBC)

Ysabelle Vautour was born partly blind and grew up hating painting.

But on New Year's Day she started a 365-day art challenge because of an online quiz. 

Vautour enjoyed sketching when she was younger, but found painting frustrating because she's colour blind and has 20/200 vision, making her legally blind and unable to drive. 

"I always felt like I shouldn't be touching this, this is not my domain," said Vautour, who grew up in Grand Barachois, a small Acadien village near Shediac. She now lives in Fredericton.

One afternoon last November, her boss at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind sent her a personality quiz.

The quiz was about what kind of work provides happiness and fulfilment. It told her she needed to be creative and artistic in order to feel satisfied.

"I was like, 'Man, I don't do any of those things. I should maybe try that out.'"

One day, Vautour picked up a sketchbook and art supplies at a dollar store and began painting. (Sarah Morin/CBC)

Vautour ventured out to a dollar store to pick up cheap paint and a sketchbook and began messing around with it. 

"Then I had the idea at the end of the year like, 'Oh, maybe I should do an art-related thing every day.'"

So, she made it her New Year's resolution to paint every day. She's six months into her 365-day challenge and her apartment is crowded with lively and expressive paintings hanging on the walls, and sketches resting on her couch-side table and kitchen countertop. 

"I can't stop … I keep going because there's so many random opportunities that have popped up for me since I started this. It's snowballed into craziness."

Vautour says people describe her art as lively and expressive. (Sarah Morin/CBC)

One day when Vautour was at the New Brunswick Library of Craft and Design — a place where she rents art videos and books to learn more about her new-found passion — the librarian asked her if she wanted to teach an art workshop. Vautour said yes and will now be teaching a free sketchbook workshop at noontime on Tuesdays throughout August. 

She's also tutoring a student in oil painting. A local massage business has asked her to run art-therapy workshops. 

"It's crazy because I just had like a little background in drawing and I never painted before."

Art supplies rest on Vautour's kitchen countertop in her one-bedroom apartment in Fredericton. (Sarah Morin/CBC)

Along with the new opportunities, Vautour has also discovered being colour blind is an advantage to her as an artist. She said it allows her to naturally block in light and dark values when she's painting. 

"I got that," said Vautour, who has monochromatic vision, meaning she sees the world in black and white. "You guys look very classy, like a black-and-white TV, in my world."

She frequently squints because of her vision. That also helps her see objects from different perspectives. 

She said there are some disadvantages to her vision though, like painting outside — a difficult task for her because she can't see well under too much lighting. 

This pastel portrait of a cat is one of Vautour's favourite pieces. (Sarah Morin/CBC)

Vautour dreams of becoming an art therapist one day because she sees art as a way for people to express themselves and feel pride.

"It's a very succinct communication on a heart level on a gut-feeling level, and a lot of people have trouble communicating their feelings," she said. "And if there's this picture and it makes you feel something, well then it's so much easier to talk about."

After the year is over, she plans to continue creating. She's found, like the online quiz promised, producing art makes her happy. 

"I'm just so excited about things now … like when you make something at the end of it you're like, even if it's kind of bad, you're still proud of it because you're like, 'I did it.'"