The Amazing Art of Disabled Artists

By WebdesignerDepot Staff Posted Mar. 16, 2010 Reading time: 4 minutes

Some of the best artists deal with disabilities in their everyday lives that the rest of us can’t even imagine living with, and use art to communicate with the world. The results are often stunning.

We’ve collected biographies and sample pieces from outstanding disabled artists, both famous and lesser-known.

The artists below paint with their hands, their mouths and their feet.

Many are blind or suffer from mental disabilities, yet they produce some of the most beautiful and intricate artwork that you can imagine.

Their achievements are arguably epic in the face of the adversity that they face.

We hope that the artists in this post inspire your designs and make you look at adversity in any field as a surmountable obstacle.


Stephen Wiltshire

Disability: Autistic Savant

Wiltshire was born in 1974 in London to West Indian parents. He is an autistic savant and world famous architectural artist. He learned to speak at the age of nine, and at the age of ten began drawing detailed sketches of London landmarks. While he has created many prodigious works of art, his most recent was a eighteen foot wide panoramic landscape of the skyline of New York City, after only viewing it once during a twenty minute helicopter ride.


Maria Iliou

Disability: Autistic

Maria Iliou is a Greek artist with autism spectrum disorder. She lives in Long Island, New York, and is an advocate for the rights of people with autism.


Joseph Cartin

Disability: Bipolar

Cartin is from Brooklyn and actively lives with bipolar disorder. He has been active in the Mental Health Consumer Movement since 1990 and considers himself a “psychiatric survivor”. He has won numerous art competitions and does corporate design work in addition to his art.


Peter Longstaff

Disability: Missing Both Arms

Peter is a foot painter. He creates all of his artwork using just his feet, having no arms. Peter’s disability stemmed from the drug thalidomide, which was prescribed for morning sickness until it was discovered that it caused deformities fetuses. After living most of his life without arms, Peter considers his right foot to be like the right hand of most people, using it dexterously to open doors and perform many other everyday tasks.


Willow Bascom

Disability: Lupus

Willow grew up in Saudi Arabia and Panama, where her father was a pilot on sea vessels. Her early introduction to varying cultures made her a huge fan of tribal art. Later in life she was struck with lupus, and started drawing when it went into remission.


Alice Schonfield

Disability: Diminished capacity through multiple strokes

Although Alice Schonfeld is most known for her sculpting work primarily in Italian marble, she is also regarded as an inspirational figure for the disabled community. She has shown a considerable tenacity to work through debilitating illnesses and has done a lot to promote awareness of disable artists. She resides in California.


Keith Salmon

Disability: Visually Impaired

Keith is a blind fine artist and avid mountain climber. He has climbed over a hundred Munros (a type of Scottish mountain), one of which can be seen in the first painting below. In 2009 he won the Jolomo award for Scottish landscape painting.


Lisa Fittipaldi

Disability: Visually Impaired

Lisa not only learned to paint after losing her sight, she wrote a book about it. Her inspiring use of color and her ability to tell which color she is using just by feeling the texture of the paint are just two remarkable facets of her story.


Matt Sesow

Disability: Missing a hand

Just six years after losing his hand as a child in an accident in which a crashed plane severed his arm and took away his dominant hand, Sesow played for the US team in the disabled Olympics in England. While working at IBM as a software engineer, he began painting scenes in oils that were influenced by his traumatic injury.


Michael Monaco

Disability: Quadriplegic

Michael Monaco is a quadriplegic who paints with his mouth. His work has been featured in global exhibitions and he is a member of the Mouth and Foot Painters Association.


Simon Mark Smith

Disability: No lower arms or right foot

Simon has no lower arms or right foot. In addition to his still paintings, he teaches digital photography and writes poetry and prose. He is also a web designer.


Dennis Francesconi

Disability: Paralysis

Francesconi is a mouth painter that excels at adding a high level of detail in his works, especially considering his method of painting them. He has participated in over 75 exhibitions around the world.


A. Erich Stegmann

Disability: Loss of arm use through polio

The first President of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists of the World, Stegmann lost the use of both arms and hands from polio at the age of two. A prominent mouth painter, he formed the association around 1953 and was voted president for life. The association continues to be home to hundreds of Mouth and Foot painters globally.


Richard Wawro

Richard Wawro was a prominent and prolific autistic savant artist from the United Kingdom. He began drawing at the age of three, and immediately covered the chalkboard with a number of detailed images.


Jessy Park

Disability: Autism

Jessica Park is an autistic artist from Massachusetts. She starts with a sketch of the scene and may refer back to a photograph for more detail later. Her mother wrote a memoir about Jessy’s story.


Ping Lian Yeak

Disability: Autistic Savant

Ping Lian is an autistic savant who has been producing amazing art since his childhood. He is now fifteen. More of his amazing art may be viewed at his website.


Christophe Pillault

Disability: Autistic Savant

This French autistic savant artist was born in Iran. He is unable to speak, walk or feed himself, but he produces paintings of flowing, beautiful figures. His art has been exhibited globally.


George Widener

Disability: Autistic Savant

Widener is a famous autistic savant artist whose works are exhibited in museums and galleries nationwide. He not only creates intricate works of art; he is also able to make complex calculations in an instant.


Gilles Trehin

Disability: Autistic Savant

The city of Urville exists solely in the mind of this French autistic savant artist. His elaborate sketches of the city are executed in intricate detail. He has published a book with over 300 detailed sketches of his fabled city.


Amanda LaMunyon

Disability: Asperger’s Syndrome

LaMunyon is a talented child artist that began painting when she was only seven. She is now twelve. In kindergarten, instead of cutting out letters to illustrate her alphabet, she drew her own.


Compiled exclusively for WDD by Angela West.

Do you have a favorite artist who is living with a disability? Please include a link to their works in our comment section.