People ask me about how I learned to paint with my mouth. Mouth painting is wild and it takes patience. I just want to be very clear I had no prior painting knowledge or experience. I never took classes and as I was not a classically trained painter by any means. I’m a graffiti writer from day one and always will be. I had to transform my ways onto canvas to keep painting in the styles I like. Creating it changes from using spray paint to painting actual canvas. It’s still a learning process every day.
After my accident, I had ideas and I did not want to stop doing graffiti. There had to be some way that I could express myself. Fast forward! After some therapy and finding out some things, a therapist showed me that mouth painting is already happening and people also draw with their mouth. I was intrigued. I was so intrigued I was not even worried about using my hands anymore, as it was time to get back on the road and get back to this graffiti work (as we call it). So, my therapist had the bright idea of using a mixing stick from Home Depot and taped a paint brush on it. I would use my mouth to clinch onto this mouthpiece that I created from a mixing stick. This is the easiest way to create your own mouth stick (and basically for free). Your therapist can even help you with your skills or suggest the right equipment for painting that works with your needs. My therapist had the great idea of making a mouthpiece out of the molding they use for temporary splints. So, just ask your therapist about temporary splints and that melting plastic stuff. They should know what it means.
After we played with this notion without my neck feeling like it was going to break and things were okay, I was given the go ahead to start painting with paper and some basic watercolors. Now everyone has to learn their own way, as mouth painting is a different process for each and every individual. For me this took months maybe even a year to get something minimal down that looked clean and not like a mess. I had never used canvas and acrylic paint. It is totally different from your run-of-the-mill spray paint.
Throughout the process you keep learning. Repetition is helpful, as you repeat the process of mouth painting over and over until you achieve a nice definition of what you are trying to accomplish artistically. Through feeling and texture, you’ll become more precise as time goes by and you get more comfortable with the creation of art through the neck and mouth. Who knew something so simple could be done in so many other ways? People probably never thought once about using their own mouths to paint. It goes to show you how much mindlessness we have until things happen. So, always count your blessings and appreciate what you can and can’t do.
As for sketching, that is a different ball game of patience. Lots of patience. It is the same concept but you are in very close quarters and become intimate with your paper. There is a learning curve, but once you figure out the best format that will work for you, in the best results will come through. Just please remember, have patience for yourself and your ideas, as things are different as you learn new ways of creating art.
About Jesse Cuellar: Jesse is an artist and brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab®. An accident left him paralyzed from the neck down, so he uses his mouth to paint and expresses himself through his art. Jesse lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and enjoys painting and hanging out with his friends. Click here to learn more about Jesse.