More musings on drawing – do you have to use your hands?

Last night, on holiday on the edge of Wales, in a house with 13 children aged between two and eleven, I was half watching TV and half working on my contrast project when a news item being featured on Russell Howard’s Good News programme caught my ear (my eyes were on my work). It was about an student who after fearing having to drop A level art because of a painful joint condition taught herself to paint with her mouth instead. This got me thinking, once again, about what it means to ‘draw’ and what an artist can use to ‘draw’. It also made me ponder where artistic talent is, in the head or in the hand / mouth / foot?

Heather Purdham, a student from Essex, had been suffering from something called hypermobility syndrome. The condition meant that her joints were loose and it made holding a pen or brush both difficult and painful.

Heather was diagnosed with hypermobility syndrome the winter before her A levels finished but knew something was wrong as she struggled to do the amount of writing that was required of her at school. Inspired by the artist Alison Lapper, who was born without arms, Heather tried painting holding a brush in her mouth. It took her a while to get the hang of drawing with a different part of her body (she also tried using her toes) but eventually got used to it and she managed to get the highest mark you can get (that A* thing they didn’t have when I was at school) in her A level art exam.

The artist with her A level piece

I wonder if I could try the same thing? Of course I don’t have any reason to stop using my left hand to draw with, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see what sorts of marks I could make using my mouth? Would the result still have my own individual ‘style’ or would they be completely different? Would, in time, the drawings look very similar in style to the drawings I am able to create with my left hand? Given that it probably took me about ten years or so to develop the basics of my own particular drawing style with my left hand, would it take as long with the mouth? Or would having a ‘mouth’ style different from my ‘hand’ style be quite refreshing? Lots of questions, not many answers.


BBC News Website, [last accessed 2 November 2012]

Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, [last accessed 2  November 2012]

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