Some of the world’s greatest artists had visual impairments. Arguably, few are better than known than Leonardo da Vinci, whose condition, ‘intermittent exotropia’, meant that on some occasions, he viewed places, people and things as 2D shapes, as though they were part of a moving canvas. The eye conditions of a plethora of artists ranging from Degas to Guercino, and Monet to Francis Bacon, influenced the production of unique, sometimes distorted images that have delighted, surprised and intrigued audiences the world over. Most artists find, of course, that seeing a blurry canvas interferes with their ability to produce works with the exactitude they wish. Figurative and hyperrealist artists, in particular, as well as those who create detailed drawings of zoomed-in images, can find vision that is less than 20/20, a real bugbear. If you are an artist and you have issues with both near and intermediate vision, occupational lenses may be a good choice for you.
What Are Occupational Lenses?
Occupational lenses are usually prescribed for people who need to focus on near and intermediate distances. For instance, someone who works on a computer while also reading material may need help to read texts at intermediate and near distances. Many people use varifocal lenses, which are multifocal. That is, they correct vision at different working distances (most often, from reading to far distance). As your eye moves from the top to the bottom of the lens, you will have clear vision at different distances. Occupational lenses are slightly different, in that they are made specifically for near as well as for computer vision. The surface area allocated for screen use is larger than that crafted for reading, which makes sense considering that the eye moves downward when reading a book, but looks straight ahead when you are using a computer.
How Can You Tell If You Need Occupational Lenses?
It might be time to consider occupational lenses if you work fine looking at a screen, but struggle to read words in a book or smaller writing on packaging. This is also the case if your vision of your computer screen is slightly blurry, yet your glasses are perfect for reading. Art requires plenty of concentration and visual focus – especially when you are sketching or painting difficult or highly detailed items such as hair or a person’s eyes. If you are new to sketching eye shapes, for instance, then everything from getting the shape to the distance right is sometimes a matter of tiny distances. With eyes, it is as much about expression as it is shape and colour, and this requires long hours of focus on your canvas or sketchpad, which would be located at a near distance. However, you could simultaneously be staring at a screen if you are copying the eye shape off an image you have found online. If you find that you are struggling or that you get frequent headaches after working at both these distances, occupational lenses may be a solution.
Visiting Your Optician
Because the distances at which people work and place their screens at vary considerably, it is important to have testing done. Your optician will ask you questions about the working distance of items you use to create your artwork, consider the size of your field of view, or the images or text you are reading, and take considerations such as lighting, contrast and stereopsis (the ability to judge depth) into account. Before seeing your optician, call them and ask them if you need to take measurements (for instance, of the distance of your screen from your eyes) and be open to suggestions to place your screen and other materials at recommended distances that promote better health and ergonomics.
Occupational lenses are ideal for artists who utilise both near and intermediate vision for several hours a day. These lenses have a larger space for screen use, which is ideal for artists who use the screen for various tasks. In order to find the right lenses, thorough testing is key. The recommended lens may differ depending on how you position your screen and the nature of lighting you use while working.
Author: Sara Major