Reading about the work Kimberley does and continues to do, as a columnist, blogger, illustrator and campaigner, you would have no idea she went through a very difficult time in her early years. Kimberley was born premature in Hope Hospital, Greater Manchester and had to be kept in an incubator for some time. At the time, and surprisingly so, no tests were done to test her sight and hearing but her mum knew something was not quite right.
By the time the local hospital responded to her mum’s persistent concerns, she was already 4 years old and found to have sight and hearing loss. Eventually, she was referred to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital by a specialist, where she underwent several operations over the next few years to help resolve the congenital cataracts in both her eyes. She also had myringoplasty performed on both ears to close the perforations in her ear drums.
Now 26, Kimberley is registered blind (totally blind in one eye, is partially sighted in the other) and uses a hearing aid. She continues to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the doctors and nurses at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, where she had spent most of her childhood and she feels she is now finally starting to live her life with her visual impairment.
Kimberley is a self-taught illustrator and has aspirations to study fine art at the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford. She was recently named “Young Illustrator of the Year” for 2014 by RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People), creating 6 illustrations that were published in RNIB’s Insight magazine, using themes from “Next Steps” to “Support at the time of Sight loss”. These themes were selected by Insight Magazine’s Editor and Kimberley was then able to create her illustrations around those ideas. The illustrations were created and published between December 2013 and September 2014, and you can see them listed below.
Theme: “Next Steps“
In this illustration, Kimberley shows her next steps for the future; from completing her braille course, training for a guide dog, continuing her campaign work, to mobility training with her long cane.
Theme: “Favourite Apps and Features“
Here, she depicts her iPad and her favourite apps and features, including accessibility functions like zoom, voiceover and iBooks.
MaMoMi initiative: How did you keep inspired through your early challenges with sight loss?
Kimberley Burrows: The support of my Mum and my family kept me motivated through the early challenges. I was never treated any differently from my brother or the other children in the house but i really felt i was treated with more compassion and respect because of everything i was going through. I was never pitied because of all the operations i had to go through in my childhood. I was praised for being so strong and brave but never had any special treatment so that really helped me adjust and feel like the other children.
Theme: “Preparing for Adult life“
This illustration was created using coloured pencils and a fine liner, portraying her as a teenager in her high school uniform, looking towards a future in adult life.
MI: Was there any point where you felt you will not be able to pursue any career?
KB: Towards the end of high school, i developed a severe depression and anxiety because of the realisation that i was spending so much of my time in hospital, and it felt lie i was been robbed of the enjoyment of being a child. I found it hard to be sociable because of my visual impairment, especially when my vision began to diminish even more. After l left college, i certainly felt i would not be able to pursue a career, more because of my own insecurities than my vision impairment itself. I didn’t feel comfortable about who i was and needed time to accept myself and my disability before others could do the same.
Find the ability in your disability to follow your dreams” – Kimberley Burrows
Theme: “Outdoor sports and activities“
Here, she depicts her character riding a bike surrounded by an archery board, football and net, cricket bat with ball and wicket, and a racket with a tennis ball and shuttlecock.
MI: How did you get involved in art and what would you like to share with the world that can inspire another person with a disability?
KB: I have loved art all of my life. I remember the first thing i did when entering the first year of primary school was going straight to the easel and painting a vase of flowers! That was one of my earliest memories. Since then, it has always been a creative outlet for me to draw my emotions and my experiences, and then translate that into colourful imagery. When i had my operations at Great Ormond street Children’s hospital in London, a city far away from home, the only thing that would stop me from feeling home sick was when i would draw.
I want to inspire and encourage anyone with a disability to “find the ability in your disability to follow your dreams!” Get the inspiration to keep doing what you love to do, even when you are experiencing difficulty at the time! That is how your dreams will come to reality.
Theme: “Support at the time of sight loss“
This illustration was a reference to the support she received from friends and family, her doctors and other medical officers and information she received online and via the internet. This was done using black fineliner and colouring pencils.
MI: What are your favourite pieces?
KB: My favourite paintings and illustrations are my Carousel GCSE piece, the Christmas card for Henshaws, the illustrated Guide Dog for the Get Active! supplement in conjunction with the Scouts magazine, the Paddington Bear illustration, and the John Lewis birthday composition.
Theme: “My achievements in the past year“
This includes Kimberley’s interview with Grenada Reports, her interview with Manchester Evening News, her artwork for John Lewis, and her planned visit to the European Parliament in November.
In addition to her achievements in the past year, Kimberley has recently been matched to her Guide dog, Tami, which will give her a greater sense of independence. Once her training with the Guide dog is completed, she plans to further her education and achieve more qualifications.
Get the inspiration to keep doing what you love to do.” – Kimberley Burrows
What we find really remarkable about Kimberley’s illustrations is the tenacity she has to get through the artworks; due to the strain the drawings place on her seeing eye (she is completely blind in one eye and can only focus for a few minutes at a time with the other), she can only work on the her pieces for around 20 minutes at a time. This means some of her illustrations can take up to one month to finish!
Kimberley’s dreams of turning her creative passion into a career may well be realized very soon as she has been commissioned to create a special drawing of Paddington bear for the creator, Michael Bond.
Well done Kimberley, continue to add the sparkle to illustration!
Special appreciation: We want to take this opportunity to thank Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, Hope Hospital, RNIB, Insight Magazine, and Henshaws.
To contact Kimberley, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit her blog page at Gleamed ✿ Kimberley’s Blog