Water Colors &
Mouth Stick Painting
"My disability has
forced me to discover a gift from God I didn't know I had.
I used to express myself through dance; losing that can make
you feel dead, but now I have another creative outletmy
One of the most inspiring people I've ever spoken to, disabled
or not, is Cindi Bernhardt. At the tender age of 18, just after
starting college, she had a tumbling accident that caused quadriplegia.
The accident curtailed her career in dance and gymnastics, not to
mention losing most of her ability to move. Even so, Cindi has always
continued to thrive, creating new ways to express her spiritedness,
and that has led her to her gift.
After learning in rehab to hold a pen in her mouth to sign her
name, Cindi went on to discover art in all medias: pastels, acrylics,
even oils. Currently, her favorite is watercolor painting.
Cindi uses a paintbrush with an extendersoft plastic tubing,
such as dental tubing, to extend her reach and protect her mouth.
Through years of practice Cindi has developed a strong jaw so she
can work for a couple of hours at a time. She moves her head to
paint the longer strokes of a background or sky, and uses her teeth
to manipulate the brush for all other detail. Cindi uses an assistive
device, a mouth-stick, to answer the phone, use her computer, turn
pages, and position her canvas.
In 1991, Cindi (a California girl!) became a member of the Association
of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (AMFPA), with members in the
United States and around the world. Cindi is commissioned to paint
beautiful watercolor paintings and she earns a living from her art.
Her paintings now hang in private collections throughout the United
States, Sweden and Russia. You can visit Cindi's Web site to see
some of her other work at: http://www.newla.com/cindibernhardt.
has allowed me some financial freedom and it's made me approachable
to non-disabled people who can talk to me about my paintings."
Among Cindi's many accomplishments, she sold a painting to the
late commissioner of the Olympics Committee, and Cindi participated
in the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Torch Relay. Cindi also had one
of her paintingsa poignant, weeping, American eagle used as
a tribute to the victims and rescue workers of 911 by AMFPA. A print
of the eagle went into 730,000 issues of the New York Times newspaper!
Cindi continues to study painting in art classes and she also keeps
busy doing motivational speaking at schools, churches, and other
venues. (Who is better qualified?!) As payment for these engagements,
Cindi only asks for lunch and gas money, because she wants to give
back to the community that anchored her during her recovery. And
the community continues to stand by Cindi, raising the money over
a two-year period, to purchase an accessible van.
Art will not be the only gift Cindi shares with the world; it's
clear she has many more gifts within her that will continue to emerge