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The Amazing Art of Disabled Artists

Inspiration, Resources | Mar 16, 2010

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.


Resources


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.



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  • http://www.twitter.com/inveve dude_man

    Awesome!! I saw something on tv about this yesterday (autistic savant artists), absolutely stunning work.

  • Tony

    A very inspirational collection. However, I fail to notice how Stephen is disabled. You never mentioned is disability

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      Autism. It’s under his name.

      • Tony

        Ah… yes.. Thanks a lot. I apologize. I looked it up in Wiki. Its remarkable how these artists achieve great things even though they have a disability. We have to learn a lot from them. Thanks for the wonderful article, Walter

  • http://lorimazzola.blogspot.com/ Lori E. Mazzola

    Simply gorgeous artwork! I’m sure there is also a therapeutic value! :)

  • obisgirl

    These artworks are simply AMAZING and they (the artworks and the artists) prove the complex and miraculous mysteries of the human mind and spirit. Bravo to these artists for creating such beautiful pieces of work. They should be very proud of themselves and what they’re able to accomplish!

  • Jess

    Incredible art!

    Although WDD, the title should read “The Amazing Art of Artists With Disabilities”

    • http://bealitao.carbonmade.com Bea Litao

      I agree. They are not disabled artists. They are artists with disabilities – sound politically correct, right?

      But they’re amazing. I’ve learned about Savant Syndrome a few years back (I think at the hype of A Beautiful Mind) and well, I think they are amazing people. Absolutely stunning work from a few minute’s view of a place or scene.

      Thanks for the post!

      • http://lorimazzola.blogspot.com/ Lori E. Mazzola

        I agree. These artists have created such beautiful artwork. I have a mental disability, yet writing gives me freedom to express myself when typically words are hard to find. I can understand and agree that they are geniuses and they do in fact have beautiful minds.

    • obisgirl

      Your absolutely right. I was thinking today after first seeing this post, how much I dislike the word ‘disability’ referring to individuals with like the above artists. It has a negative connotation in my mind, and says to everyone else I have a handicap.

      I grew up with Epilepsy but that didn’t stop me from accomplishing great things in my life.

      It’s people like the above artists who prove that they can do amazing and awesome things, and continue to baffle everyone around them because they defy the odds.

      • Rel

        Why does everything have to be politically correct? You have a disability, you’re disabled. You have autism, you’re autistic. Although I do generally disagree with classifying autism, at least high-functioning and Asperger’s syndrome as a disability in general. Being politically correct isn’t going to grow back a hand or give someone the ability to speak. Maybe you feel you need the “protection” of the majority being careful of how to refer to you, but don’t think you speak for the entire so-called community. Some of us still prefer to be called in simple terms. Anyway, great pictures.

      • http://www.platopress.com poch

        Excellent observation and feedback Rel. I agree.

      • http://www.arlissavaughn.com Arlissa Vaughn

        As an artist with a disability, I prefer the politically correct version. I am not “disabled”; I find this word suggests lack of power, lack of ability at all, lack of person-hood, lack of true skill, lack of *you name it*. Rather, I have one disability – that I am partially blind. My first role in life is as a person, second as an artist, neither of which I am disabled at being. Therefore, saying that I am a person or an artist with a disability is a more accurate wording.

  • http://www.designcouch.com Jesse

    One of the more famous (yet omitted) artists that falls under this category is Chuck Close. One of my all-time favorites – you should think about including him next time!

    • http://www.oooshola.com Shola

      I agree–probably my favorite artist of all time actually. Sort of surprised it’s not present.

  • http://www.timolthof.com Tim Olthof

    Amazing works by these talented artists!

  • http://sexidesign.com Melody

    Oh, how I would love to get into Stephen Wiltshire’s head :)

  • http://goldennetwork.net usa cheap webdesign

    wow ! nice work ! really great artists !

  • http://1000dpi.com Shaunyk

    Great collection – thanks for enlightening us. I’m gonna sound like a right b@stard here but in the case of Matt Sesow, I can’t agree on his inclusion. One of my best friends is missing a whole arm and it doesn’t affect his abilities to live a normal life at all. He is the best snowborder, tennis, golf and cricket player I know.

    How many artists use both hands to paint? Sorry Matt – don’t take it personally – I think your work is great, but to me it seems like the author has entered you into the paralympics 100m sprint for missing a toe.

    • http://mylife-myart.blogspot.com/ S. Hernandez

      I’m sorry I know I’m 6 months late on this comment and probably no one will ever see it, but Yeah, I do have a problem with you saying you can’t understand his inclusion. His loss was of his dominant hand. So yeah, it is actually pretty incredible that he can paint art with his non-dominant hand. It’s not exactly the same at all as doing physical activities as you say your friend does.

  • http://abeall.com Aaron

    As a kid I remember being so inspired by an artist like Peter Longstaff (I forget his name) who made art by painting with his feet. I enjoyed art and fancied myself a pretty good footballer but couldn’t write my own name using my feet!

  • Sara

    I think Judith Scott, a sculptor who had Down Syndrome, deserves a mention.

    http://www.hidden-worlds.com/judithscott/

  • http://www.light-and-illusion.com/ Randall Klopping

    Thank you for doing an article about artists like me! It helps the public realize that we too offer something to society. Trying to promote my work is ever so slow not being able to enter art shows or to advertise my art. I’ve been pioneering a new style of fractal art by setting aside the golden rule and adapting chaos theory to design independent fractals that when joined together form an illusion of space such as a beautiful nebula.

  • http://www.loveishs.com/ tanya

    Just one word amazinggggg. I love this collection :)

  • obisgirl

    they should be called “exceptional individuals” <– a lot more positive connotation.

    • http://vandriessche-interieur.be/ keukens

      Whe should call “them” impressive artists. Impressive :-)

  • http://new2wp.com jared

    Simply amazing. Such an inspiration to see such beautiful work despite their disability.

    I wish I was able to create art like this.

  • http://www.thepeachdesign.com peach

    This post blew my mind. With their disabilities, they are able to accomplished things that I can’t even imagine being able to do. This is very inspiring.

  • http://www.bebop-ad.com BebopDesigner

    What an incredible and inspiring post! I think instead of “disability” it should be called “different abilities”
    Breathtaking work, incredible passion.

    Thanks for sharing

  • suhni california

    thank you
    lovely collection
    -s

  • cooper

    I went to high school with Margie Smeller an artist with Downs Syndrome, she does
    outsider art in Frederick County Maryland and works with Art Enables in D.C.
    http://www.art-enables.org/artists/artists-bio.php?artistID=202


    https://margiesmellerart.com/Home_Page.html

  • http://www.creatusdesign.nl/ Gert van den Brink

    Those are real artists, I, without any disability can’t do what they do. Very nice post!

  • hna

    I think Esref Armagan should also be mentioned here. He is born unsighted and he has never saw colors or shapes. Still, he paints and it amazes people how he can color them when he had never experienced light and colors. You can read his bio or check out his paintings from his website: http://www.armagan.com/default.asp

  • Heather

    My step-father is blind and he is a (for the most part) self-taught woodturner.

    http://www.blindwoodturner.com/index.html

  • http://www.mazeofminds.com/ Tomas B.

    Thank you for this rare post. Lovely selection and nice artwork by Stephen Wiltshire.

  • Almudena Marques

    A-MA-ZING !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • kolin

    absolutely stunning. nothing else needs to be said. these guys are an inspiration.

  • http://www.bestfreewebresources.com/ BBL

    incredible post

  • http://www.platopress.com poch

    Bravo! This is one of your greatest posts ever.
    I myself work with the disability of one eye and yet
    most of my artworks are judged excellent.

  • Marcio Almada

    this was really inspiring! made my day :)

  • http://www.jordanwalker.net Jordan Walker

    great collection of beautiful works of art, by members of our society.

  • Yael

    Incredible! Thanks for this precious article.

  • http://balgle.designerteam.info/ Beth McLain – Web Designer

    Appreciate your efforts in putting this together. What a great talent you have presented here.

  • http://www.houmedia.com Alysia

    What an awesome collection. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Kevin

    it’s amazing what the human body and mind is capable of, regardless of the struggles that face us. These are stunning.

  • http://www.dailydressupgames.com Dress Up games

    what is amazing pieces of art. this is some of the best pictures.

  • AJMaxwell

    I’m not disabled and I can’t even draw or paint anywhere close to as good as these people. Simply breath taking!

  • http://www.e11world.com e11world

    I love the second one (yellow cabs) and the one with the boy’s face. Excellent work and a nice post.

  • http://Twitter.com/maccymacx Maccymacx

    Amazing work! Rather terrible title tho, I think you meant artists with disabilities, also “mental disabilities” I think you meant Cognitive disabilities!

    • Rel

      Seems to me like they meant disabled artists, including those with mental disorders AND cognitive disorders (there’s a difference).

  • http://Twitter.com/maccymacx Maccymacx

    Amazing work! Rather terrible title tho, I think you meant artists with disabilities, also “mental disabilities” I think you meant Cognitive disabilities!

  • Timur

    Deep respect to this people!

  • jeeva

    Amazing!! Awesome!! and Inspiring!!! Thanks for this great Post.

  • http://junkiee.net Nina

    Wonderful and very very inspirational roundup!
    Thanks for sharing :)

  • http://www.thelongestwayhome.com The Longest Way Home

    Great collection of Art & Artists here, one of the better posts I’ve seen lately

  • http://ww.w3graphix.com Robinhood

    This is really amazing the best ever seen artwork

  • http://3circlestudio.com/ Justin Carroll

    Incredibly inspiring.

  • http://creativeaddict.co.za Lisa

    Beautiful, beautiful work. Just goes to show we are the only ones who limit our own talent. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://designer77.com Hilde

    This is such an amazing collection.
    Thanks for sharing! :D

  • http://www.justusbluemer.de Justus

    Stunning to see what one can achieve if he has the will to make it happen and the confidence to not limit youself through thinking about what you can NOT do.

  • http://www.crazyegg.net Web Design

    Great..

  • http://pranavzspace.blog.co.in Pranav Ainavolu

    amazing…!!!!

  • http://www.umeshshebe.com Umesh

    Thanks for sharing ! Hats off to these artists.

  • http://lava360.com lava360blog

    guess what?? absolutely amazing and bind blowing.. two thumbs up for these artists

  • http://www.denisdeng.com denisdeng

    beautiful!

  • http://www.alejandroperazzo.com Punta del Este Real Estate

    my god, this kind of thing make me apreciate the life that god has given me. For real.

    regards

  • Logesh

    No words, its just amazing.. marvelous job

  • http://www.pondicherrytimes.com pondicherry times

    thanks for sharing :)

  • http://www.sconi.com dennis

    very nice post,– i appreciate being included, thanks…;]

    Dennis A. Francesconi
    Member Artist, MFPA, USA

    [personal site] http://www.sconi.com
    [publishers site] http://www.mfpausa.com

  • http://www.mygall.net/newwinweb gina

    Hello,

    I am impressed of this site and would like to sahre also some paintings from me. How can I join the community?
    Some examples you will find at hte website above.

    Gina

  • greedybrown

    Incredible :) . They are unfortunately disabled, but their souls are so beautiful … Thanks for the great inspiration!

  • http://www.medicine2life.com Donna

    I have no words to say. It’s a Awesome, Incredible Persons that made amazing creation.

  • Suzanne

    There are many deaf artists as well! Take a look at Charles Wildbank’s work: http://www.wildbank.com and Chuck Baird: http://www.chuckbaird.com

  • http://www.chronicpainhurts.webs.com chris

    The art is amazing! I had brain surgery in 2008, and I’ve devoted most of my time trying to heal, but I also create stain-glass art. It really helps to relax, and I love the designs that seem to take on a life of their own. I also write poetry, etc. This is a great site! I’m just getting started with mine, but it’s coming along.

  • http://healthypages.us healthypages.us

    that’s amazing..
    great job!!

  • http://www.wearingrainbows.com/mens-waistcoats-ties-c-2659.html Billy

    WOW! Peter Longstaff! No Arms!! and what an artist, inspiring to say the least, a big lesson to anyone who says “I can’t do it”

  • Tracy

    BRAVO, BRAVO, and BRAVO. I personally felt that the artist briefly let us into their world. Artist such as Maria Iliou, Simon Mark Smith, Michael Monaco and Dennis Francesconi. I could close my eyes and see myself in their paintings.

  • http://www.chilture.com jackie

    Unbelievable! Actually, Reaching into All of the Disability Community – Open the door of art to let every disabled artist shine, overcoming disability to create fine Asian artwork / handicraft! There is a studio about Chinese disabled artists how defy disability to create Asian / Chinese calligraphy painting symbol art work scroll and oil paintings, etc.(http://www.chilture.com/disabled-chinese-artists-c-30.html. http://www.chilture.com/oil-paintings-c-66.html)

  • http://ng25lab.deviantart.com/ Antonio.NG25

    Great to see that finally someone it is noticing this. As disabled guy, living with a spinal cord injury since I was 14 due to an accident, I always like art and always was one of my passion. I remember when I had my accident and find out that couldn’t move my fingers, WOW, I was so devastated but never lost hope. I started practicing with my Occupational Therapist in how to hold a pencil again with a device because I wanted to draw again. I must say, it was very hard at first, but once I did more practice I got better in hold that pencil. Today, I am a graduated Web/Graphic Designer and beat all the obstacles that were put in front of me. Many people said to me; “What are you going to do with art, Why are you going to that art school, why not a law school?”…and my answered was, I hate lawyers. :) Thank you for that opportunity to let me express myself in your website. Great place to get good inspiration.

  • Haleigh

    I almost cried when I saw this. It’s beautiful to see the amount of success the disabled can achieve. =’)

  • http://www.miamiwebdesignpro.com miami web design

    wow thats …just amazing. everyday im thankful for my health and lifestyle and im glad for these artistic people. They truly are blessed.

  • http://www.chilture.com jackie

    Unbelievable! Actually, Reaching into All of the Disability Community – Open the door of art to let every disabled artist shine, overcoming disability to create fine Asian artwork / handicraft! There is a studio about Chinese disabled artists how defy disability to create Asian / Chinese calligraphy painting symbol art work scroll and oil paintings, etc.
    http://www.chilture.com/disabled-chinese-artists-c-30.html
    http://www.chilture.com/oil-paintings-c-66.html

  • http://www.heidifalzon.com Heidi

    GREAT ART……………IS ALWAYS INSPIRING!

  • http://www.uniquepashminas.com Marrisa

    I think the reason that people sometimes do better when they are under illness and extremely life challenging situations such as death is because they understand that they have limited time to fully manifest their creative impulse so they work at their peak level to make sure the best comes out

  • Seamus Maloney

    A beautiful reminder that the phrase, “I can’t” should be removed from our vocabulary. These beautiful pieces of art are also a reminder that Freedom, is a mind’s inch away… Thank you for assembling these together for us all to enjoy and be inspired by…