Maximizing Strength for
"Had it not been
for my disability, I'm not sure I would be where I am today,
art-wise. Aside from giving me a reason to spring out of bed
seven days a week, my art has caused me to redefine my notion
of what disability is. For me, art was the means by which
I rebuilt my sense of self-esteem and self-worth, following
my injury. The positive feedback I received was, and still
is, great for my ego."
Randy Souders, of Fort Worth, Texas, is a 48 year old, incomplete
C-4/5 quadriplegic celebrating his 25th anniversary as a full-time
professional artist-painter. A swimming accident at age 17 fractured
Randy's back. Randy uses his arms and hands to paint. Though generally
unable to grip objects or use finger-movement, Randy has just enough
tension in his fingers to hold a paintbrush.
A trip to Randy's Web site is a tour through online galleries by
a prolific artist. Much of his paintings are ethereal scenes for
children's publicationscastles, country estates, and nostalgic
scenes, such as an old-time schoolroom or barbershop and quaint
churches. That may be partly because Randy likes art to transport
him and take him places, even when he's unable to travel. Being
able to paint with a brush fastened to his hand played a crucial
role in Randy's recovery; it surprised him, restored his identity
and hope, probably saving him spiritually.
"People don't embrace
my work because they feel sorry for me. Nor do they comment,
'Gee, this is good, considering he's a quadriplegic!' I take
a measure of pride in knowing that my work succeeds-not because
of my disability-in spite of it. Because of my art, I hardly
feel disabled at all."
Randy now owns Souders Fine Art, Inc., an art studio, publishing
and marketing company, and Souders Gallery. You may visit his Web
site at: http://www.randysouders.com.
Randy's works are represented by galleries nationwide and have been
marketed nationally on the Home Shopping Network. His long-standing
clients include the Walt Disney Company, MGM, Turner Entertainment,
State Farm, and Maxwell House. Randy also serves on the national
board of directors of VSA
Arts. Randy is married, a dad, and a granddad.
Some of Randy's paintings have a kind of Norman Rockwell quality,
but make no mistake, his style is all his own. They are warm and
homey, so after seeing his paintings, you may feel as if you know
I use a wheelchair. I have good shoulder movement and biceps, but
very weak triceps and pectorals. I have good flexing upward of my
wrists, but not downward. I have a good grip in my right hand, but
no ability to extend my fingers. I have zero grip or finger extension
in my left hand. OF COURSE, I'm left handed!!!:-)
I am able to sit upright and work all day. Twelve-hour workdays
are typical. I drive and travel by air, when needed. Though married
and a grandfather, I can live independently, if needed.
I paint on an inclined table, similar to a drafting table.
is a photo. I need to rest my forearm on the table in order
to achieve control. Without steadying my forearm on a table, my
ability to write, draw, or paint is severely compromised. This is
the only way I can paint with the high degree of accuracy and detail
I'm known for.
Due to the need to rest my arm on my work and table, I use fast
drying acrylic paint to avoid smearing. I also paint on Masonitea
¼-inch thick wood panel coated with a white surface (gesso).
The thinness of a wood panel is an advantage in resting my arm.
However, I have recently begun working on stretched canvas. I have
devised a stack of 4-5 cardboard sheets glued together to fill in
the space inside the stretcher bars on the backside. This allows
me to rest my arm and hand on the canvas surface without it sagging
(a) Perspective: Working on an incline causes some problems in perspective.
For example, a drawing done on an incline is noticeably elongated
when viewed vertically. To overcome this, I sometimes work out my
drawing on a smaller scale, then enlarge it using my personal
copier, then an engineering copier at a local copy center.
Therefore, when I transfer the drawing to the wood panel or canvas,
it is in proportion.
(b) Reach: Working on an incline restricts the size of my paintings.
After all, I can only reach so far (2x3 feet is quite large for
meabout the end of my universe). I often "spin"
a painting like an animator, working upside down, sideways, and
any direction that facilitates my ability to reach.