Teenager who can only paint using eye movements has artwork placed in exhibit

A wheelchair-bound teenage girl, who struggles to use her arms and hands and can only paint using eye movements, has had her artwork exhibited.

Greta McMillan, 13, spent years trapped in a quiet world with communication limited to a sequence of blinks – for yes and no – tiny facial expressions and small sounds.

The teenager was limited by her Cerebral Palsy but is now able to communicate after the local community rallied round to fund an “eye tracker” computer for her.

Greta Macmillan with her mum Thea and dad Ian. Greta paints on an ipad using her eyes and is having her work exhibited as part of the Porty Art Trail this weekend.

The fundraising campaign by people in the Portobello area of Edinburgh has allowed Greta to develop her inner artist by producing a number of pieces of artwork.

Greta’s work is being exhibited at annual art walk project, Porty Art Walk.

Prompted by a school enterprise project, in which pupils were making products to sell, Greta’s mum Thea tried to find a way for her to also take part.

Thea explained: “The pupils were making bracelets and suchlike, which was great but Greta can’t do that.

“Somebody suggested that she could maybe paint using a special website that luckily works with the eye gaze computer technology.

“All her creativity has been stored up until now and she just loves it.

Greta starts with a blank screen and the computer follows her eye movements.

As she lets her gaze linger the colours and thickness of the lines change allowing her to create drawings and paintings.

The computer can see where Greta’s eyes are looking and track whether she is looking at individual words on the screen or phrases.

Mum Thea added: “Until recently she wasn’t able to do anything creative but the eye gaze computer and this programme has allowed her to experiment.

“It was mostly geared for communication, so she would be able to talk but this is another great outcome for her creativity.”

“My husband Ian is an architect and I am a design director, Greta’s sister is also very creative so it makes sense to see this side of her character flourishing,.

“I know I’m her mum but I think her artwork is quite special – they’ve got real quality to them.

Greta Macmillan with her mum Thea and dad Ian. Greta paints on an ipad using her eyes and is having her work exhibited as part of the Porty Art Trail this weekend.

“It has been quite wonderful. She didn’t have a way of expressing herself before – she’s always been good at doing yes blinks but that is dependent on us asking her the right question. So it’s still a learning curve.

“It’s tricky but she is determined and she’s very funny and it’s lovely for us to hear her laugh.”

The Art Walk Porty project is an annual artist-led project run by volunteers celebrating the creative community of Portobello.

The 2017 event, which also runs next weekend from September 8 to 10, works with 80 artists over 52 locations.


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