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Blind Artist 'Can't See Sh*t,' Still Tattoos

 Brendan Patrick shooting for Can't See Sh*t.

Brendan Patrick shooting for Can't See Sh*t.

Warning: This story will make you feel like an asshole for all the times you blamed your lack of success on a swollen ankle.

Facebook thinks advertising the documentary Can't See Sh*t, the story of a blind artist, is a little profane. But Brendan Patrick, the star of the doc, literally can’t see shit—he’s just being honest. “Brendan wanted to name it Blind As Fuck but I was like ‘That might be a little too harsh,’” Rob Cousineau said during a phone conversation with Inked. “There’s something funny about a censored title,” Rob said.

Brendan, 35, and Rob, 32, met at a coffee house in Michigan when they were kids where they each were playing a gig for their respective bands. Ever since, they’ve shared a sick sense of humor about all things—especially Brendan’s Cystic Fibrosis. “I think that’s part of the reason why he’s still around,” Rob said. “He didn’t shelter himself like a little bubble boy.”

When Brendan was 14 the doctors told him he had until 21. “I’ve always had the attitude like ‘Fuck it. I’m going to die tomorrow. I’m going to do cool stuff while I still have the time,'” Brendan said. His health did decline at 22, forcing his career as a tattoo artist to end after three years. “He just started getting good when he couldn’t do it anymore,” Rob, who has two tattoos from Brendan, said. The first tattoo Brendan gave his best friend was a portrait of himself, looking much different than he does now. “He had a big beard and glasses, he could still see then,” Rob explained.

 Rob's tattoo of Brendan by Brendan.

Rob's tattoo of Brendan by Brendan.

“After he went blind he tattooed this like squid with a laser eye that’s choking and killing a rocket ship on my leg," Rob said. "He didn’t know how deep the needle was going, we had to put newspaper on the ground to catch the blood and I kept laughing because I didn’t want him to know that it hurt so fucking bad.” Brendan has tattooed half a dozen people since losing his sight.

"Rob got the worst tattoo, some are pretty clean now actually," Brendan said. With the help of what Brendan calls a "tattoo chaperone" he is able to do better work. Rob shared the details on this process. "Basically he takes medical tape and squares off where the tattoo is going to go. Brendan just free hands then from muscle memory," he said.

Brendan’s apprentice at the time, Tom, is the only other artist tattooing Rob now. “The best part about Tom is that he gets to tell people a blind guy taught him how to tattoo,” Brendan joked.

Tom is about finished with Rob’s sleeve but the filmmaker feels a little awkward showing off his ink. “I’m just starting to get visible tattoos so it feels like such a fucking poser thing but I just didn’t have the money to do it. And Brendan had to go fucking blind.”


ONE DAY LEFT: Click here to help Brendan and Rob reach their $50,000 fundraising goal!

When Brendan was 25, after a night of Mario Kart and drinking 40s with Rob, his lung collapsed for the first time. “I believe you were on oxygen already, but when we woke up he was having trouble breathing and—” Rob said before being interrupted by Brendan. “My brother had to carry me down the stairs."

“I remember being like ‘Oh shit. Brendan’s going to die,'” Rob said.

He spent months in the Intensive Care Unit waiting for a lung transplant but kept “hustling while dying.” A comic book deal was offering him a chance to write and illustrate one of his own. He took more to painting, too, since tattooing was (temporarily) out of the question. “I was on the ventilator on life support before I lost my vision and during that whole time I was painting all day everyday.”

Finally, at 26, he got the lung transplant—a bilateral transplant to be fancy. Rob recalled getting the news: “Brendan got [his lung transplant] on April Fools Day. His brother called me, who's got a sick sense of humor, and goes, ‘Brendan’s getting a lung transplant! He got new lungs!’ and I just go ‘Fuck you’ and hung up.” Brendan lost his vision after the surgery.

A good friend of his told him about YouTube videos she found of blind people painting. “They’re alright,” she told Brendan when he asked whether or not the artists were good. “My ego took over and I kind of decided I’m going to be the best blind artist.”

You’re probably wondering how a blind man paints. It took some experimenting but it is safe to say Brendan has now mastered the art. “I use a puffy paint, like a craft paint that you would normally put on T-shirts. I approach it like you would a tattoo: I do an outline with the [black] puffy paint and when it dries it gives me a raised line. I have all my bottles of paint brailed out. To oversimplify, it’s like a coloring book.” His work, which is being auctioned off to help fund Can’t See Sh*t, is super bold and bright paintings of monsters, animals and skulls. “I grew up watching tons of monster movies, Mars Attacks is my favorite movie, so I have that kind of imagery embedded in my brain.” Brendan said. “And I still remember the color wheel.”

 Painting by Brendan Patrick.

Painting by Brendan Patrick.

ONE DAY LEFT: Click here to help Brendan and Rob reach their $50,000 fundraising goal!

Because being a blind painter wasn’t enough to keep Brendan busy, he has taken on the role of mentor, guitarist and bassist. “I still play in two bands, guitar in Goblin Claw and bass in Wretched Sights,” he said, on top of starring in a documentary. “I don’t get treated like a cripple. Anybody who treats me like a sick child, they don’t last long in my group.”

“We have a no sympathy policy,” Rob said. “When he’s like that we say ‘Fuck it. Get up faker. Stop being lame, let’s go out and do stuff.’” Both started laughing. “But Brendan is limited on time. The lung transplant doesn’t last forever.”

“They told me 15 [years] tops,” Brendan said casually.

“You’ve had it for eight, so Brendan could literally die tomorrow.”

Because of Brendan’s uncertainty, the two have the whole doc mapped out. “I need to know how the story ends because I owe it to other people to tell his story.” To be sure the film mirrors Brendan’s attitude, they’ve recruited a puppet lookalike. “It’s going to get a double lung transplant and we’re going to make it spray blood everywhere,” Rob said, Brendan laughing in the background. “At one point this little kid puppet of him is sitting on the playground with leg braces and nobody wants to play with the puppet but then he’s going to be playing hockey with all these real kids.” (As a kid, Brendan played roller hockey with leg braces well into his teenage years.)

 Brendan and Rob.

Brendan and Rob.

ONE DAY LEFT: Click here to help Brendan and Rob reach their $50,000 fundraising goal!

Part of Can’t See Sh*t will take place on the road—another big reason the film needs funding ASAP. “We’re going to tour the country for five or six months with Brendan’s art. We want him to be the biggest artist in the country, even if it’s just for a little.” They launched a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo with a 60-day donation period. “We launched blindly—no pun intended—which you’re not supposed to do,” Rob said. The blunt title did hurt their advertising abilities. “I couldn’t advertise the Indiegogo campaign on Facebook because it’s considered profane (even at 18+ settings). I had to find all these dumb fucking ways to get people to click on the actual donation link.”

With less than 30 hours left, they’ve raised more than half of their goal. Currently sitting at $33, 486, if a few thousand people contribute five bucks each, they’ll reach their starting goal of $50,000.

Once funded, they plan to raise more awareness for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. "Brendan is very involved with that foundation," Rob said. "We want to get him publicly out there so he can promote that and maybe eventually they can get the life expectancy up to like 60."

"It's about early 40s right now," Brendan said.

"Which is crazy because it was 20 when Brendan was a teenager."

Wishing them luck before ending the call I told Brendan, "The sky is the limit!"

Brendan laughed, "Well I can go further than the sky."

Above, check out the fundraising trailer for Can't See Sh*t. More of Brendan's paintings, tattoos, and the squid tattoo he blindly gave Rob are listed in the gallery. To learn more about or to donate to Can't See Sh*t, visit the Indiegogo page here.