Mouth Painting after Paralysis – By Jon Clayton

I was involved in an accident a month before my 18th birthday, this resulted in me being paralysed from the neck down C4/5, complete. I was admitted to the nearest Spinal Injuries Unit at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. This was to become my home for the next year, it was also a place of safety and although it had ward-like routines it was comforting having all the facilities nearby.

Having such a high neck break I had little movement and very little chance of gaining any. During one of my regular trips to the Occupational Therapy Department, I experienced mouth painting for the first time with the Occupational Therapists. The frustrations of not knowing what to paint and the awkwardness of holding a brush in the mouth for the first time got the better of me – and I spat the brush out – and never did any more.

When I was finally discharged from the Hospital and actually been back in my old home full-time and not having an electric wheelchair to move about in, I spent my time reading magazines with a tray positioned in front of me, turning the pages over with a stick held in my mouth.

I was given a paint by numbers oil, painting kit. This was nothing special, just a simple pheasant in a landscape. I accepted this as a matter of course and looked forward to doing something different, actually holding the brush in my mouth didn’t feel awkward this time. I spent a great deal of time experimenting with mixing paints and eventually applying the paint.

The painting eventually looked something like the image on the box and I got a huge satisfaction from actually being able to do something constructive. I did not know at that time, that this was going to be the start of my painting experience.

I continued a couple more paint by numbers kits and ventured out with a bit of confidence to draw and copy postcards and pictures, calendar’s etc. I tried a different medium watercolours, this I found were not vibrant enough colours , so reverted back to oil paints.

I first heard of the Mouth and Foot Painting Association during the 1980’s when I was given a book by Marc Alexander, illustrating the lives and paintings of artists who paint with their mouths or feet. Comparing their work against mine, the book went in the cupboard and I continued to practice!.. Some years later I read an article about the Association and this time decided to contact them, some months later I was delighted to hear I had been accepted as a student artist.

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Since then I have met lots of wonderful people, artists like myself ; their families and friends. I still wonder with admiration how some of our mouth and foot artists have the ability and dexterity to paint such magnificent pictures like they do. Being with the Association is like belonging to a huge family, with it comes the responsibility to contribute and maintain the ethos of the Association. For more information please take a look at www.mfpa.uk

I have a studio in my garden where I paint, I try to be in there for a few hours most days. This is where I try to leave my disability to one side and be an artist, being creative gives me a sense of purpose and in doing so allows me create my artworks. During the past 18 months I have been involved with the Spinal Injuries Centre at Wakefield, for years I just attended outpatients and went back home.

I have joined the SPINE Committee at Pinderfields Hospital, Spinal Unit. A Professional Peer Support Group and with my colleagues one of our roles is to voice the concerns and welfare of in patients and out patients who are linked with the Spinal Unit. I also belong to our Art@Pinders Art Group, run by ex patients. We meet on the ward every Monday afternoon, in patients and out patients are welcome to join us. This is huge success and gives those who come along a chance to learn new skills and (pick up old one’s which probably have been neglected due to our previous busy lives) we have a varied array of art materials kindly donated by our sponsors, which gives us the opportunity to try new mediums.

I have now got my own website, for a while this was talked about and that was a far as it went…I contacted my web designer friend and from that the website came into fruition. I wanted to be involved in building, running and updating the website. I want the website to show my work and my style of painting, but I also wanted to inspire other people to ‘have a go’ . I have a wonderful engineer friend who belongs to the charity R.E.M.A.P. this great Charity designs and makes bespoke equipment to assist people with their disability.

I have a range of equipment I have help design to assist me with my everyday living and my art work, because this equipment isn’t available in the market place. People have no idea it exists, so all my equipment I have made is on my website. I am constantly having new ideas for ‘gadgets’ and these will be on the website, if someone see’s something that they could possibly use themselves I hope they will get in touch and through their local R.E.M.A.P. team in their area, exchange technical drawings and have it made for them. I am a strong believer that helping others is important and through my website I hope to do this.

I live on my own with assistance from my great Team of Personal Assistants (Mo & Peter) with my support team I am able to integrate within my community, also contributing with local affairs and media. Being an Artist with a disability I like to demonstrate my Artwork and help bring down those ‘invisible barriers’ that surround us. If you would like any further information or would just like to view my Artwork please view my website jkcmouthartist.com .

Regards

Jon Clayton

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