A Brush with Darkness: The Lisa Fittipaldi Story

As a teenager Lisa Fittipaldi had visions of becoming a doctor. Instead she became a nurse and a CPA.

“I really wanted to be a doctor, but, frankly, I was more interested in boys,” she admits.

Then met Al Fittapaldi in South Carolina. “I was going to nursing school. He was in the Navy.” They have been married for more than three decades. “We did plenty of traveling and resided in many places, since he was in the military. We’ve lived in 19 houses.”

Their latest residence: Beauregard House Bed and Breakfast Inn: “We came to San Antonio six years ago,” Lisa says. “We came to visit a friend. A friend of his had a bed and breakfast. It was bankrupt. So we bought it.”

The inn, located one block from the River Walk, was built in 1905. The specious Victorian home is located in the historic King William District.

The house has unique guestrooms with private baths, a cozy dining room for the lavish breakfast served each morning, plus a large living room for socializing, reading and special occasions.

“We were warned it would take all our time — 12 hours a day seven days a week, Lisa recalls. “But we needed a life. We needed a regular business. Al does all the cooking and repairs. I keep the books and manage the place. We really love people.”

More than a dozen years ago, she faced her toughest challenge. One morning in March 1993, while driving to her financial job at an Austin hospital, she recalls:

“For the briefest second, blackness swallowed the tractor-trailer in front of me. So quickly did the moment pass that I chalked it up to a black hole, a random glitch in the universal order that had nothing to do with me.”

Shortly afterward, she descended into blackness again en route to work and was involved in a traffic accident. She wasn’t injured, but the incident prompted her to find out what was wrong.

It was devastating news. After a barrage of tests, she learned she was going blind. That sent he into a deep depression for a couple of years. She even hated to get up in the morning.

“One day Al threw a watercolors set at me,” Lisa recalls. ‘Get out of bed,’ he yelled. I was really depressed, but I wasn’t dying. So I got out of bed.”

And she decided to change her life – and become an artist.

“In a year’s time, I mastered the basic shapes,” she says. “I used art to give me mobility and freedom. When I painted streets, I got out in the cities. I tried taking art classes. But the instructors couldn’t teach me. They wanted me to look at photographs. They wanted me to look at the real world. They could not translate visual aspects of painting to me.

People have a lot of misconceptions about being blind. There is life after blindness. First you have to learn alternative skills. And there’s rehabilitation.”

Lisa discovered success on her own. She is hailed internationally as the only blind realist painter. She has sold more than 500 paintings. “I’ve been painting since 1995 and selling since 1997. Before we came to San Antonio, we were on the road with the art, I do mostly oils now, it’s more labor intensive than watercolors.”

She also found time to write a book: “A Brush With Darkness: Learning to Paint After Losing My Sight.”

Proceeds from book sales benefit the Mind’s Eye Foundation she founded in 1999. “We provide software for kids going to school. The software translates the written word into oral. It reads back homework”

Lisa has much to be thankful for: “I’m a detail person. I’ve been blessed with a photographic memory. My whole live is structured. My painting is, too.”

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