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Former Morehead Police Chief overcomes vision challenges to become painter

Posted at 11:52 PM, Jun 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-20 01:18:18-04

With each stroke of the paintbrush, eastern Kentucky comes to life before Mike Adams’ eyes. Using vibrant greens and soothing blues, the former Morehead police chief captures Appalachian life, as he sees it.

“When things were a little stressful I could go to that,” he said. “Immediately I was in a holler somewhere, with trees or wildlife, or whatever it is I wanted to paint at the time. I was there.”

Adams doesn’t take these scenes for granted, partly because he realized he was partially color blind as a kid.

“I always thought I’d like to try painting, but because of the color blindness, I thought maybe I’ll just stick to drawing,” said Adams.

He ended up sticking to drawing for years.

That changed in 2009. While building a flower bed for his wife Barbara in the yard, Adams discovered another issue with his eyesight.

“My mom had retina problems, and I was fearful that might be what it was,” he said.

His instincts were right. His vision in one eye remained blurry, so he went to the optometrist, who confirmed his hunch with the diagnosis: a torn retina.

“I’d been chief of police for about a year,” he said. “I said, ‘Man, I could lose my job. Lose my sight.’”

That didn’t happen, thanks to the work of doctors who performed surgery to fix his eye. One year later, even the same issue in his other eye didn’t deter Adams from finally following his dream.

During doctor’s appointments in Lexington, “I’d go to Hobby Lobby and Michaels and buy paint,” he said. “I said, ‘When I get done with this, I’m going to paint.”

After more than ten years later, Adams’ art has gained fans across the region, including his own optometrist Dr. Anthony Mayo.

“Our talents don’t necessarily like in our hands, or our retinas,” said Dr. Mayo. “They’re in our mind. And Mike had a positive attitude all the way through it. He’s like, I can do this.”

Adams says he’s lost some peripheral vision, but he feels fortunate. With glasses, his vision is 20/20.

“Every morning I get up, thank the Lord I can see,” he said. “I can hear, I can walk, and I can talk.”

The self-taught painter can’t forget a special someone, who stuck by his side for years: Barbara. She now acts as his “color checker,” to help him pick the right colors and provide feedback on his work.

Mike Adams and wife.jpg
Mike and Barb met in a church music group.

“It’s just something special to me,” said Barbara. “Knowing he could never have saw anything, and now he can see, and paint, and do stuff. I’m blessed. We’re blessed.”

Adams feels the same.

“It’s a real blessing to be able to go up there and paint a little bit, and be able to see.”

The gift of sight, captured on canvas.

You can see Adams’ art on his Facebook page: Mike Adams Art | Facebook