Art is inclusive - Triumph over adversity
Art is inclusive, your disability should never stop you from learning a new skill. Adapting and finding the right tools for you can help you triumph over adversity. Here Ucan2 talks with Leanne Beetham a member of the Mouth and Foot painting artists group, to find out how she overcame her challenges and shares her tips for other budding artists.
Tell us about yourself:
My name is Leanne Beetham and I’m an artist who paints using my mouth as part of the Mouth and Foot painting artists group.
What inspires your work?
I am really inspired by nature and love to capture and preserve moments in time that can never be replicated, something I strive to capture in both my artwork and photography. So, whether you are painting a landscape or an animal – no two people will ever see in the same way you will do in that particular moment. That is why each artwork created is unique and a personal part of that individual – providing an insight into how they see the world and interpret their surroundings.
As an artist I am constantly striving to raise awareness of the things I am passionate about through my work – such as disability and wildlife conservation. I work hard to challenge stereotypes, change perceptions, and push boundaries, hoping to inspire others to create no matter what their artistic abilities.
Conservation issues and preserving natural spaces remain central to all my work. The value we place on wildlife shouldn’t just inform our idea of traditional beauty or stereotypes. For example, the role of the common spider is just as vital as that of an elephant; both deserve our respect and admiration - the world is an amazing place if you take the time to truly look.
If my artworks can help the viewer appreciate the beauty in the everyday wildlife around then, or even highlight the simple fact that a disability doesn’t have to stop you achieving your goals – then I am happy.
How does your disability inform your work?
Moving away from the stereotypes the subject of disability - disability does not mean ‘inability’ as we are all able in our own way. Having a disability just means that we may do things in a different way or take a different approach to doing things – and while in certain circumstances that can include physical help from others, there are often times where we need to use our imaginations more in order to innovate and discover entirely new ways of doing things.
With this in mind my work is not just something pretty to hang on a wall, it also serves as my voice. I spend a lot of time focused on public talks and painting demonstrations to inspire others and show that disability should never be a barrier to creativity.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a painting demonstration video in time for World Animal Day (4 October). This has been quite a large-scale project, which I commenced last year in collaboration with The Sumatra Camera Trap Project (based in Indonesia) and The Big Cat Sanctuary (based in Kent, UK). I’m currently in the process of editing months of content down into something bitesized, to give viewers a glimpse into how this artwork was created, it’s exciting backstory, and what was involved. Watch this space!
How did you get to where you are now?
I have always been creative, and back in 2000 while still at school, I had interest from a local publisher who printed a piece of my work as a Christmas card that attracted a lot of interest in the press. From there my career took off, and I was introduced to a number of different artists with the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA) who encouraged me to submit my work and mentored me to continue my work. In 2004, I received a Student Scholarship with the MFPA, and continue to work with them to this day!
What is the MFPA and how can it help artists who have lost the use of their hands and feet?
The MFPA is an international self-help association of artists who paint without the use of their hands; the group is not a charity, but an organisation run by the artists for the benefit of the artists. The vision is simple - to live fulfilling lives without charity, and we do this by creating artworks that are then used to produce cards, calendars, jigsaws, and a whole range of other products available to buy!
For me personally, the MFPA enables me to live the life I want, doing the thing I love most in this world, and enables me to have complete artistic freedom. With so many mouth and foot painters across the globe, the MFPA often feels like a huge extended family, providing a constant source of inspiration, support, encouragement, and security to artists like myself.
What advice for budding artists?
1. We can only fail if we give up, while anything else is simply a learning experience. It’s those mistakes and missteps you make that bring you closer to finding what’s right for you and achieving your goals! This certainly applies to both finding the right tools and adaptations for you, as well as the process of producing a painting itself. It’s a constant learning process, even if you’ve been painting for years.
2. Find inspiration everywhere you can and don’t be afraid to push yourself beyond your comfort zone! For my creative process that’s being outdoors and learning the best process to capture the content I want to depict in paint, however everyone is different and inspired by different things. If it’s not possible to get outdoors, there are also element you can focus on in your immediate environment. For example, how the light falls on different objects or how it reflects through a glass of water. There are learning opportunities everywhere, with inspiration and artistic challenges all around you.