TODAY   |  January 04, 2014

Blind artist paints from childhood memories, dreams

A California artist is captivating young students with both his vivid oil pastels and his attitude on overcoming life's challenges. NBC's Sarah Dallof reports.

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>>> inspiring children and adults alike with every canvas he paints.

>> we love this story. the vivid scenes that captivating his audiences and the fact he has never seen his own work . here is sara doloff.

>> reporter: california's wine country . a picturesque region surrounding by sweeping vistas and golden vineyards. this is where ken rossy creates his art. admired by patrons at the sonoma county museum.

>> i love the color.

>> that's impressive.

>> that's powerful.

>> reporter: ken's home of sonoma county is breath-taking and more than enough to inspire any artist. but the truth is ken can't see any of this. what if i was to tell you that this artist is blind?

>> amazing!

>> i would be very surprised.

>> reporter: drawing from dreams of childhood memories. no one is more surprised than ken. you've never seen your own work .

>> nope. it would be interesting to see what it looks like.

>> reporter: he was born illegal blind and in school he ran track with a teammate guiding him. but with every year, his eyesight diminished. the bright colors fading away.

>> it was horrible. it was scary.

>> reporter: by his 18th birthday, those colors had van issued, he was completely blind.

>> when i first lost my sight, i believe we come to a crossroad where hi to say, do i want to move on or give up? i decided i don't want to give up.

>> reporter: so ken enrolled in college where he discovered oil pastels .

>> with oil pastels , you can draw and you can feel the light.

>> reporter: ken has overcome other challenges. he was hit by a car while crossing the street in 2006 and almost didn't survive. he works every day to maintain his independence. this morning, he is up and out the door to teach a workshop to fourth graders. the students are transfixed by his process.

>> i believe that there is something happening through his hands that his hands can be able to compose on the paper without having to see any of it himself.

>> how do you know if you want to start in the middle?

>> because i feel the paper and i start everything from the middle out.

>> reporter: they close their eyes and attempt for a few minutes to do what ken does.

>> it was really hard. i couldn't really feel the pastel.

>> you're not looking at it like is it good or is it bad or, you know, how is it going to turn out. you look at it more from an imaginary point.

>> reporter: art lesson become lessons in life.

>> i learned that even if it's hard to do something, you can always do it.

>> live your dreams and try to do the most you can in life and, you know, be good to people.

>> reporter: the teacher, an artist, grateful for his ability to bring