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Blind artist’s work is a must see

For anyone who grew up watching Bob Ross paint “happy little trees” on public television, being an artist seemed like an incredibly fun thing to do. In those 30 minute intervals when “The Joy of Painting” aired many people felt a connection with the bearded, afro-afficianado with the soft voice.

One little boy in Kansas who watched that program growing up would go on to become an artist in his own right. Eric Ordway is now a 36-year-old Newton resident, and he is also legally blind.

“I was born with bad eyesight,” Ordway said. “And then in elementary I had an accident that made me fully blind in my left eye.”

According to the Social Security Administration, individuals are considered legally blind when their vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in their better eye or if their visual field is 20 degrees or less in their better eye.

Despite his accident, Ordway still stayed positive.

“It was pretty shocking of course, being a little kid,” Ordway said. “But I quickly got used to it since I couldn’t see very well in the first place. (It was like) ‘So I can’t see out my left eye, oh well.’”

With a passion for art and motivation from watching Ross, Ordway continued his expanse into the art world.

“I dabble in many mediums,” Ordway said. “(I’ve been into art) since grade school I’d say. I’d have to say watching Bob Ross, he was my biggest inspiration for wanting to paint. I’d say I always liked art, I started with flip-books and stuff.”

Although Ross was know for his painting, Ordway found a different specialty.

“I’ve done some paintings with acrylic and oil,” Ordway said. “But I mostly work with pencil, that’s my primary medium. But I’m getting into color pencil and I’m doing some paper-mache.”

Like any true artist Ordway let’s his emotions dictate what he creates.

“Well I’m very emotional when it comes to my art,” Ordway said. “So I can’t just see something and decide to draw it anytime I want. It pretty much has to call out to me I guess you could say. I’m always looking for art that--- well I work from photos cause of my eye sight. So I’m always looking for dramatic looking photos.”

Ordway is a constant presence at the Centre for Arts & Artists open drawing classes on Tuesday afternoons. He recently finished up a pencil project of modern-abstract artist Milton Resnick from an art book. he goes into details about how delves into a project.

“Normally I use a HB or 2B (pencils), I usually only stick to two pencils at a time,” Ordway said. “One soft, one hard just to get the different shades. I’ll just look through magazines, books for something that sparks my interest at the time.”

“Depends on how involved I am,” Ordway said on the time it takes to finish a piece. “My piece I did here (Resnick penciling) I worked on it for about a month here at the center, two hours a week. But normally it will take about three or four hours non-stop.”

Ordway has sold several pieces over the years, but doesn’t see art as way to make money. Because of that mindset he has no idea where his art is going to continue to take him in life.

“I’m not sure of it actually,” Ordway said. “I’ve never really thought of it. I mean I don’t really do much other than hobby. I don’t really try to sell my art, I do it because it makes me happy. So I never really thought about going places with it.”

In the past his work has been on display at Progress Industries and the Newton library. He has an exhibition in a couple of months at Uncle Nancy’s Coffee House.

“I do have kind of a catch-phrase I guess you could say, that I came up with that really helps me remember to keep up with my work” Ordway said. “Keep you mind sharp and keep your pencils sharper.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at

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