FOUR FINGERS AND THIRTEEN TOES – MY MFPA JOURNEY . . . so far
Today, 5th September 2018, has been designated International Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Day #internationalmfpaday by the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. The MFPA is a co-operative, and part of an international self-help association of artists (AMFPA).
Formed in 1957, it supports and promotes artists like me, who paint without the use of our hands. MFPA artists paint with a brush held in the mouth or foot as a result of accident, birth defect or illness that prohibits us from being able to use our hands. Each year our original artworks are reproduced as Christmas cards and a wide range of seasonal items and other unique merchandise. The income from the sales comes back to the artists.
There are currently 33 British artists and almost 800 artists from about 80 countries worldwide.
The 5th September marks the anniversary date of the death of Eric Stegmann, founding father of the MFPA. To recognise this day, MFPA artists are coming together, primarily through social media, to celebrate International Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Day, in memory of his life.
I get asked many questions about my personal and professional journey with the MFPA, and as one of my contributions to #internationalmfpaday here are answers to some of the questions that I am asked.
Q: How did you find out about the MFPA, and what motivated you to join the organisation?
A: I got to hear about the MFPA through a friend of mine, Tom Yendell. I have known Tom since we were very young, we also went to the same school. Tom knew that I could paint and for many years kept nagging me to join the MFPA. Previous work and family commitments meant I just simply did not have the time to submit a portfolio. However, in 2012 I felt the time was right to put my portfolio to the MFPA. By March 2013, I had been given a student scholarship. The motivation was the opportunity to be encouraged to paint on a regular basis, improve my skills, be with like-minded people, and to continue to earn a living at the same time.
Q: What does being a member of the MFPA mean to you?
A: The MFPA is known and respected throughout the world. To be a member of this unique and exclusive group of people is a huge honour. Moreover, there is potential for my art to be viewed worldwide.
Q: How would you describe your artwork and style of painting?
A: My artwork and style of painting is very eclectic. I am hungry to try out all sorts of different materials, styles, and forms of art. However, my preference is working with acrylic paint, using bright and bold colors.
Q: How long have you been painting, and what inspired you to become an artist?
A: Like all children, I did art at school and found this to be far more preferential to maths and cookery! It was something that I could do with a minimal amount of help. I am primarily self-taught, although I did O-level (GCSE) art at school. Throughout most of my life art has been something that was therapeutic and enjoyable, and a real stress buster from a busy working day. The opportunity to become an MFPA artist was my main inspiration.
Q: What have been some of your proudest achievements to date?
A: Each piece of work completed and submitted to the MFPA is a proud achievement. However, holding an exhibition in our family garage, completely filled with my own work, was one of my proudest achievements. I thoroughly enjoy taking part in MPFA PR events, and I take great pride when members of the public acknowledge the work that we do and take the time to stop and talk to us.
Q: How has your artwork evolved during your time with the MFPA?
A: I would like to think that my artwork has improved over the past five years that I have been a student. I have finally cracked watercolour painting, which was a challenge! With my love of bright bold colours, I kept using the water colours a bit like acrylic paint. I now know to start off with very light and very watered down paint! As well as my preference for acrylic, and my perseverance with water colours, I have also experimented with ink painting, silk painting, sketching and drawing, pastel painting, palette knife painting and spin art. At some stage, I would like to try out water-based oil painting.
Q: What is your process behind creating your pieces of art? (i.e. inspiration, timeframe, method)
A: Because of my desire to experiment with various media, I have to keep reminding myself that my work has to be commercially viable for the MFPA. Often things that I think would be chosen as cards, wrapping paper etc have not been, but I think I now understand that their preference is for Christmas images, landscapes, seascapes and flowers. I start off with a rough idea of what I want to do, sketch it out lightly on paper or canvas, either from imagination or a number of photographs and images to inspire me. The timeframe is determined by the materials being used and the size of the piece I have planned. I tend not to restrict myself to having something done by a certain time, as that puts the pressure on, and leaves more room for error. The method I use to produce the work is determined by what type of art I am doing at that time. However, I usually have more than one piece on the go at any one time, so that I don’t get bored.
Q: Aside from art, what are your other greatest passions?
A: Family is paramount to me and I love spending time with them. My business is all about encouraging Disability Equality through Art, Inspirational Speaking and Media Work. I love giving Inspirational Talks about ‘My Life and My Art’ to anyone who will listen! I do ad hoc radio and television work, and also write the odd article for newspapers and magazines. I spend a fair amount of time on voluntary work and as a board member of various organisations, including Cardiff University Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board; as a school governor on the Governing Body of the Western Learning Campus, and with the National Theatre Wales. I am also a member of the Cardiff Business Club and the South Wales Art Society. Photography is a hobby of mine and is useful as a resource for my art. There is some debate in our house as to whether Steve, I or James is the best photographer. Whilst I would like to think I am, I have to concede that James with his photography degree, probably comes out on top!
Q: What advice would you have for your teenage self?
A: Put a portfolio of your art into the MFPA much sooner. Don’t be quite so well behaved ;-). Remember your mother’s favourite phrase “There is no such word as can’t” and quote it back at other people, when they tell you can’t do something.
Q: What do you love the most about living in Wales?
A: Wales is a beautiful country filled with very interesting and kind people. Cardiff, in particular, is an eclectic, young and vibrant city. A blend of Roman, Victorian and modern culture and heritage all combine well together. A 45 minute drive in one direction you can find a beach, 45 minutes in the opposite direction, and you are in the heart of the stunning Welsh countryside. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
Q: What are your ambitions for the next 1, 5 or 10 years?
A: With regard to my art, I would wish to remain as a member of the MFPA, to enable me to thrive and improve my artistic standard and ability. Ideally, I would eventually like to be promoted to an associate member and, who knows, ultimately to become a full member. I would love to stage more exhibitions of my own artwork and to be recognised as a bona fide talented artist.
Q: Do you have any planned activities for the rest of 2018?
A: I have many inspirational talks booked for the rest of the year. I have loads of ideas for paintings, some of which are in the planning stage, and others are taking shape quite nicely. I hope to fit in a holiday, probably to France or Jersey. I hope to continue to support the MFPA in their PR events. If anything else exciting crops I will let you know.
Q: Where can we find out more information about your Disability Equality work, your Artwork and the MFPA?
A: If you would like to see some of my artwork and find out more about how I paint (and my other activities), please follow the links below to my website and my Instagram account:
You can also find me on social media – just search my name on Facebook and Twitter.
For further information about the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA) please visit:
The MFPA can also be found on social media using the following hashtags: