This Picture Book Biography will also be published in blind-accessible formats for the visually impaired.

The Book
Painting in the Dark tells the story of Esref Armagan, an artist from Turkey who was born without sight. Rachelle Burk captures his extraordinary life in this picture book as he learns to “see” not with his eyes, but with his hands.

The story begins with Esref as a young boy in his father's shop, scraping shapes into cardboard with a nail. Then, as he develops a passion for drawing, he learns to use his other faculties to visually represent the world around him. “One day you will be a great artist,” his Baba tells him.
The book contains illustrations by Claudia Gadotti, as well as Esref’s own paintings and drawings.
Tumblehome Learning plans to produce books that contain braille and tactile image so Esref’s inspirational story can be accessible to all children. Just as Esref learned to view his world through touch, the tactile pictures will help blind children to understand visual concepts like shadows and depth. If we reach our stretch goal, we will be able to create an iBook that reads the story out loud and describes the illustrations. 

An illuminating portrait of a self-taught Turkish artist who, despite being blind from birth, has become an internationally known painter...Burk traces Esref Armagan's long efforts to develop his skills, to earn recognition and a living, and to fend off skeptics claiming that he must be cheating, somehow...The author's particular focus on the artist's development—his discoveries of shadows and of perspective, for instance—and specific techniques for preparing canvases with modeling clay or glued-down string offer real insight into how obstacles raised by physical disabilities can be overcome with motivation and ingenuity....Informative as well as inspiring. (Picture book/biography. ages 7-10) 

"Mr. Armagan has demonstrated for the first time that a blind person can develop on his or her own pictorial skills the equal of most depiction by the sighted. This has not happened before in the history of picture-making." —John M. Kennedy, Professor, Perception/Cognition Psychology, University of Toronto at Scarborough (and a scientist involved in testing Esref's abilities)

"A valuable addition to any elementary school curriculum. The author is to be commended for sharing the story of this largely unknown painter in this well-written, entertaining, and inspiring book." —Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway, President of the Georgia Organization of Parents of Blind Children (GOPBC), Board Member of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC)

"A story of talent, perseverance, and refusal to accept limitations. Esref's triumph will inspire young readers to stretch toward goals they may not have believed were within their reach. This is a thoroughly researched manuscript that introduces young readers to a remarkable artist they will long remember." —Deborah Stein Kent, National Federation of the Blind

"I feel connected to Esref through Ms. Burk’s book. May Painting in the Dark break down our misconceptions and encourage us all to find our internal vision, to follow our heart’s desires, and never pre-judge our neighbor’s abilities." —Barbara Oswald, blind artist, photographer, gallery owner, Program Coordinator for the Disability Resource Center at Bellevue College in Seattle.

"Fills a niche that is much needed – biographies of people with disabilities which are both educational and enjoyable, and which do not focus on the disability itself. . . . The book is uplifting and inspiring. . . . Its educational and scientific details give it depth." —Laura Weber Secretary, National Organization of Parents of Blind Children President, Texas Parents of Blind Children
"I have given it a place in my Top 10 of elementary school books...Painting in the Dark deserves a prominent display in school art rooms, during instruction of biology and human senses, in curriculum integrating technology and fine arts, children’s libraries and in school guidance offices." ~ Ann Tavino, school guidance counselor I recommend it for fourth through sixth grades

Painting in the Dark

photo courtesy of Zafer Kizilkaya

Esref Armagan (born 1953) is a contemporary Turkish painter who has been completely blind since birth. He grew up poor and uneducated, and never had an art lesson, yet he paints detailed pictures in bright colors and 3-point perspective without assistance. For decades, Armagan was the subject of curiosity, awe, and skepticism in his native Turkey. Then in 2004, he became the subject of scientific brain studies in the United States. The astonishing results have been published in science journals, magazines, and newspapers around the globe. In 2008 the Discovery Channel aired a documentary which featured Armagan (and three others with extraordinary abilities) called The Real Superhumans. (Click link in right column to view video)

I discovered Esref Armagan quite by accident when an article about him popped up in an unrelated google search. It caught my eye, and I was immediately hooked. I knew I had to write a book and share his inspiring story with kids everywhere. How, I wondered, could a man paint things he has never seen? And why would he even want to paint pictures he'd never himself lay eyes on?

(read the interview: 

 After 18 months of research, interviews, and writing, I completed my picture book biography about this remarkable painter.  Painting in the Dark: The Story of Esref Armagan, Blind Artist, has been favorably reviewed by members of the Arts and Disabilities organizations, as well as national and international organizations for the blind. (Click here to read reviews). It was released in July 2016 by the award-winning children's educational publisher, Tumblehome Learning. **  
Talented ILLUSTRATOR Claudia Gadotti is the artist for the book.

Armagan's fascinating story will be a valuable addition to both science and art curricula, and an inspiration to children with disabilities and those who care for them.

This book will be produced in FORMATS ACCESSIBLE TO THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED, ie, braille (with tactile images) and audio (with verbal descriptions of several paintings).

 Special thanks for help and support in the process of writing this book:
 Esref Armagan
Joan Eroncel (Mr. Armagan's manager)
Dr. John M. Kennedy (University of Toronto)
Dr. Amir Amedi (Harvard Medical School & Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Art Beyond Sight 
Special thanks to Zafer Kizilkaya for photo permission
The NJ Lions Club (and president Mahesh Chitnis) for funding for the braille edition