Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

State News

April 26, 2014

Visually impaired inmate leaves mark

VINCENNES (AP) — Long, purposeful brush strokes in brown and gold hues cover the lengths of the sheriff’s office walls, and in the far left corner of the room there stood the shadow of the painter, working to handcraft the decor.

The artist, who is in the process of hand painting at least six murals at the jail, isn’t the typical professional you’d expect to see at work here.

He is, in fact, an inmate.

Tommy Earl, of Vincennes, has been incarcerated in state and county facilities for the last 16 years on drug charges. Though he now has just one eye, and is losing his sight in the other, painting remains his life’s passion.

“He’s been painting in the back, in the incarcerated area, and you can tell he’s highly talented in the arts,” Sheriff Mike Morris told the Vincennes Sun-Commercial (http://bit.ly/1rt7Ajv ). “Since we are repainting, and he had inquired about it numerous times, we decide it would not only be for his benefit but it’d be a cost savings for the county because we’re getting these professional paintings that would cost thousands of dollars without a penny out of our budget.

“He’s been in the state Department of Correction and I understand he’s done artwork for them as well, and he has done a fantastic job for us,” Morris said of Earl. “It’s all freehand, there are no diagrams. He’s incredibly talented.”

Earl said leaving his mark on the facility is something to be proud of, something that will help him move forward once he’s released later this year.

“I was told I’d be completely blind eight to 12 months ago, I should not have my vision, I should be blind, but I’m not, I can see today, and while I can I want to leave some sort of mark, what an influence and responsibility that is, and that’s so important for me,” he said. “In a few months I can watch my daughter walk down the aisle, I can see my grandkids, I can have something, that when I can’t see, others can appreciate.

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