Artist not deterred by blindness

LAURA MACDONALD
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2013
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MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ

GOING SOLO: Megan Ultimate, in front of one of her graffiti works at Victoria University, is about to host her first solo exhibition.

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She may be losing her eyesight, but a young art student is continuing to make her mark.

Megan Johnston, who has legally changed her surname to Megan Ultimate, suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a rare, incurable eye disease that damages the retina and gets worse with age.

"Essentially now, I've got no peripheral vision," the 26-year-old Wellingtonian, known as Pinky, says.

It affects some of her work, but is also the reason she finally studied art after hesitating because she was not sure it would lead to a job. "Eventually I just thought why not? I should do this while I can."

Now three months shy of finishing her diploma in art and creativity at the Learning Connexion, she is busy preparing for her first solo exhibition.

Her brand, Pinky Fang, has already secured a loyal following on social media and she sells her work online and at the Mighty Mighty market.

Ultimate uses no specific medium. She spray-paints walls and cars, draws pictures, makes patches, stickers and figurines, and even designs tattoos.

She does, however, have a recurring theme in her artwork: Cats.

She cannot remember exactly when her feline-inspired artwork began, but says her earless SPCA cat, Nubby, is definitely a muse.

"I just started drawing cats and realised I was way better at that than I was at drawing people. People really liked it."

Some of her fans like her work so much she has designed them their own unique cat tattoos.

"It makes it like a club sort of thing, so people feel special."

Street art is her favourite style, she says, but it is also the one thing limited by her eyesight, because it is done at night.

"The retina is the bit that adjusts to day and night, so at night I can't really see anything."

She says she has developed mechanisms to deal with it because she has had the disease all her life.

"They are working on a cure, which is good because eventually it will affect my art and I won't be able to see at all.

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