Seeing through his eyes


Artist Ryan Davis incorporates braille into his paintings

Ryan Davis wants to make art that isn’t just beautiful to look at it. He wants his art to be felt – emotionally and physically.

The 31-year-old artist is legally blind in one eye and his mother was born with a visual impairment. So he had the idea of incorporating braille into some of his painting so those that can’t see can enjoy his work.

“They are functional, because the braille is accurate, and says what is depicted in the piece, but further than that, the addition of the braille is intended to open your mind, even if you have sight,” he said. “It does this by describing what is in the picture, but it emphasizes the shallowness of our words at times.”

Davis works with fourth graders at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

“Seeing the experiences, struggles, triumphs and everything in between that the visually impaired go through inspired me,” he said. “There are certain words that not only require a ton of explanation, but even after that some things will always be interpreted different ways. For instance, if I put ‘painting’ in braille in a piece, how would you explain a ‘painting’ to someone without sight? How would you explain colors? When my paintings say ‘blue’ where the painting is blue it forces you to step back and interpret ‘blue’ how you’d like, and relate that to past, present or future experiences with ‘blue.’”

Davis doesn’t incorporate braille into every single one of his works and his paintings can vary in style from piece to piece. He likes to use strong purposeful brushstrokes with vibrant colors to create abstract pieces and portraits. He sketches, builds furniture and creates 3D art. His subjects vary from nature to sports to religious themes.

His goal is to try to make people put themselves into other people’s shoes through his art. Incorporating braille is a way for those with sight to imagine not being able to see.

“My painting ‘Clouds’ spelled out in Braille forces you to think about clouds you may have seen before, but also can make you imagine ones you have never dreamt of,” he said.

Q and A 

What’s your background and where did you do your training?

I have been drawing on any and everything I could find since the second grade (and probably before that if I could remember). I took every single art class that my elementary, middle and high schools had to offer. I do a little bit of everything from illustration, painting, commercial design and more. I studied at Herron School of Art & Design for two years after graduation.

What artists are you inspired by?

My favorite artist is Jackson Pollock. I liked how he made paintings that forced people to think, and come up with what they wanted to get out of the pieces.

Where can people see your work?

My website has many of my current works, and a lot of my past work as well.

I am currently featured in Earth Fare Supermarket on 116th and Range Line, and Yats on Old Meredian St.

What’s the favorite thing you’ve created so far?

I did a painting titled “Heart” for my friend Ben. It is a piece with two lions, a male and a female. The female is asleep and totally relaxed. This could be because she is lounging on a beautiful male lion who is up and alert. The piece is all cool colors, except for his majestic mane, which is represented by all the colors.

About Ryan Davis

Name: Ryan Davis

Age: 31

Education: Lawrence North class of 2001, two years at Herron School of Art & Design.

Family: wife Cherish, two sons, Rain and Sky, and two daughters, Violet and Hazel.

Favorite Artist: Jackson Pollock

Favorite Art Medium: Acrylic Paint

Favorite Movie: Wayne’s World

Favorite Restaurant: Any seafood place