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Seeing Clearly

Turning back the clock with cataract surgery



This may seem an unusual thing to discuss but far more important than brands of color, types of paper or any painting technique, the ability to see clearly has a huge impact on what we create.?


It’s funny how, when painting watercolor, some things, like French Ultramarine, masking tape and Arches paper seem to disappear incredibly quickly, while other things seem to gradually fade away and you hardly notice them go.

One thing that has crept up on me over the years is a gradual loss of close vision. Glasses didn’t really solve the problem – they would focus on the area right in front of me, but the far end of a large sheet of paper would require craning over to bring it back into focus. I tried multi focal lenses but they felt like looking through distorted glass.

When my kids were little we used to sit in the studio and paint these tiny little watercolor and gouache pictures of boats, aeroplanes, trucks and animals. Looking at the few still left I’m amazed at the fine detail – all done without glasses or contact lenses. It’s incredible how that sharp vision gradually deteriorates.



Mono-vision contact lenses, where one eye wears a closeup lens and the other a distance lens, worked well for a number of years, but the twice daily chore of removing and inserting contact lenses and the problems associated with outback dust and smoke, plus the $1200 a year cost, finally pushed me to inquire about laser surgery.

The specialist I spoke to said, that because of my age (61) and the fact that there was the first sign of cataracts present, cataract surgery would be my best option. 


Cataract surgery requires removing the natural lens and replacing it with a small precision acrylic lens. The newest lenses made by CARL ZEISS are a trifocal lens employing a series of tiny concentric rings giving clear closeup middle and distant vision.

Photo: ZEISS

ZEISS AT LISA lenses are tiny (11mm) precision acrylic implants that replace the degraded natural lens.



My eye surgeon recommended these lenses based on the excellent results he has had since their introduction. Tests were done, forms filled out and a surgery date arranged.

My eyes were carefully measured and tested to precisely determine the type and strength of lens necessary.

The surgery was quick and painless. I was rendered semi conscious as soon as I entered the theater and the next thing I remember was sitting in a recovery room with a cup of tea and a number of other patients decorated with similar eye patches to mine.

A nurse explained what I should and should not do for the next month while the eye heals and settles.


Next morning I woke up, removed the eye patch and immediately could read close up and clearly focus on distant objects without glasses or contact lenses, and this was with just one eye done. A follow up appointment that morning confirmed that my new eye was working perfectly.

I asked the surgeon about the color shift I noticed between the eye with the new lens and the other eye. Once cataracts begin, he explained, color saturation and contrast diminish and the eye takes on a yellow cast. So what I was seeing through the new eye was how things should appear. The slight Magenta tint will disappear over the next few days.

A slight color shift was noticeable between the natural deteriorated eye (left) and the new lens (right). Once both eyes had been done the color shift went away.

A couple of weeks passed and I had the second eye done with similar results. I am still using eye drops four times a day to aid recovery. This will finish in a couple of weeks. Since the day after my first eye was operated on I have not worn glasses or contact lenses and my vision now is better than I can ever remember it being.

The only noticeable downside to the new lenses is a slight halo around strong light sources at night. The eye surgeon said this will diminish as I become more used to the lenses.

So, for me it’s no more lost glasses, no more fiddling around with contact lenses and clear, sharp vision for the rest of my life – these lenses don’t deteriorate like a natural lens. As far as painting is concerned, the best sable brush is only as good as the eyes of the person holding it, so I’m very happy – all my brushes work better now!

Author: John Lovett

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