For Odis Craig, making art isn’t a career, nor is it just a hobby—it’s therapy. About 40 years ago, Craig was rushed off on a stretcher from the pickup football game he had playing with his Marine Corps base buddies. A tackle turned wrong had snapped his third and fourth cervical vertebrae, leaving Craig paralyzed from the shoulders down. His mind, however, was in perfect shape and Craig, whose motto is “knowledge is power,” was itching to exercise it.
After much physical rehabilitation, Craig’s therapist recommended an art class as a creative outlet. He worked slowly, enrolling in one class each semester at University of California State Fullerton for 11 years. In 2012, at age 61, the veteran completed his Masters of Art, specializing in drawing and painting.
It’s difficult to imagine how someone can draw without using their arms, but Craig has mastered an impressive technique, in which he uses a mouthpick affixed to an easel, which can then clamp on directly to his wheelchair’s arm. In an article published for the debut of his graduate exhibition, Craig recalls that he was used to being the only handicapped artist in the classroom. “Everyone is interested and wondering, ‘How are you doing that?’” to which Craig would respond, “I’m just trying man, like you are.”
His upbeat smile and positivity, despite his disability, are infectious, as well as his clear attention to details and focus in the studio. His pieces are typically realistic landscapes with bold blue tones, though he also has a knack for painting portraitures of strong African American public figures.
You can see below a photo tour through Craig’s house (courtesy of Redditor Hubbanaut), where each shelf has therapy potential and every wall seems a little brighter.
Above photo credit: CSUF/Karen Tapia.
This is Craig’s easel. On the right is the stick and mouthpiece that he uses to paint/draw. This sketch is of a friend’s son.
All images via Hubbanaut, unless stated otherwise.