Some of the most famous artists in the world were also dealing with disabilities in everyday life. Vincent Van Gogh had temporal lobe epilepsy; Henri Matisse became a wheelchair user after surgery for cancer; and Michelangelo had osteoarthritis, limiting mobility and causing pain in his hands and feet. Whether they have a physical or mental disability, many artists today are creating beautiful and intricate artwork in the face of adversity.
Paul Smith, typewriter artist
Paul Smith (1921-2007) had a severe case of cerebral palsy (sometimes known as CP): a group of neurological disorders affecting movement, balance and posture. Around 10,000 children are born with CP every year. Fortunately, cerebral palsy support exists to help parents provide their children with the best care possible. Unable to grasp artist’s tools like paintbrushes, pencils and pens, Paul turned to typewriters for his creative outlet. Remarkably, he began using the typewriter symbols to create beautiful works of art. Paul loved creating pictures of nature and animals, still lifes, and spiritual leaders like Jesus and the Pope.
Peter Longstaff, foot painter
Peter Longstaff is a UK-based foot painter. He was born without arms due to exposure to thalidomide, which was prescribed for morning sickness before being known to cause serious birth defects. Peter creates his art using just his feet, but doesn’t view himself as disabled. After living most of his life without arms, Peter can use his feet just like people use their hands. He specialises in winter and summer landscapes in oils, watercolours and acrylics and has recently started delving into the world of portrait painting. His paintings are turned into holiday cards and frequently displayed in a gallery in Hampshire.
Stephen Wiltshire, world-famous architectural artist
Born in London in 1974 to West Indian Parents, Stephen Wiltshire is one of Britain’s best known artists. He was diagnosed with autism at age 3, learned to speak at age 9, and began drawing intricately detailed sketches of London at age 10. Peter has many artistic achievements under his belt, one of the most recent being sketching the New York City skyline from memory onto a 19-foot-long piece of paper after taking a 20-minute helicopter ride. In 2006, Stephen was presented as a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his contributions to the art world.
Creating art with a disability may be more a challenge, but it doesn’t hold these artists back. Their outstanding creations serve as inspiration for anyone to view adversity as an surmountable obstacle.