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Ray Pike

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Painting Style:Mouth Painter
Nationality:Great Britain

WHEN Ray Pike lost the use of all his limbs after an accident as a teenager, he thought he had lost everything.

But, in time, he found ways of coping with his disability and decided he would not let it stop him doing the things he loved – including drawing and painting.

Instead of using his hands, Ray, from Old Basford, uses his mouth to hold a paintbrush and create his artwork.

The 42-year-old suffers from quadriplegia after injuring his spine in a fall aged 16 and says: "It changed everything – I thought I had lost everything.

"Now my life has totally changed again."

After the accident, an occupational therapist suggested Ray tried to draw by holding a pencil in his mouth, so he gave it a try.

"I did a sketch of Frank Bruno from a photo in a magazine and it came out perfect," said Ray. "It came to me quite easily – drawing with my mouth was just fantastic. Then that was it – there was no stopping me."

Ten years later, Ray heard about MFPA, Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, and sent them some of his pictures.

The partnership publishes the work of disabled artists who use their mouths and feet to paint, and gives the proceeds back to the artists.

Ray was accepted on an MFPA scholarship and now paints regularly for the association. He said: "Without the MFPA, my life would have been totally different.

"I go off into my own little world when I paint. It's a challenge every time.

"The MFPA never rush you, everything is all at your own pace. It's about quality rather than quantity."

MFPA produces calendars, greetings cards and other artwork from the pieces sent in.

Some people in Notts will have received MFPA Christmas cards through the post, which are free, but people are invited to pay £5.95 for the packs.

Ray said: "At the moment, I paint landscapes and bodies. I've tried to do Christmas things but I can't seem to get the hang of drawing snow!

"People also bring photos of their families and kids for me to draw."

The MFPA also holds functions and other events for its members across the country, where they can share stories and experiences.

Ray said: "MFPA is very important because they give financial support. It has enabled me to live a freer life. It's almost like a job but it's working at your own pace.

"I would encourage a lot more people to join in. I would love to give demonstrations to similar people and see their work.

"A lot of people just say 'I can't do that', but if you dig deep enough, you can do it.

"Art is in everyone, but it's just whether you choose to use it. I don't even see myself as someone in a wheelchair – you overcome these things."

Ray certainly hasn't let his disability stand in his way, and is also a fully qualified webmaster and a musician with his own mini recording studio, but painting is his real passion.

"I find painting therapeutic," says Ray. "My family and friends see that I enjoy it and they are very supportive.

"I put classical music on, shut everything else down and I start painting and I'm off into another world. It's relaxing and soothing.

"Sometimes, I will paint for a few days. I can paint for hours on end." He said some people are really impressed when they realise his paintings are done by mouth.

MFPA member Alison Lapper, born with no arms and shortened legs has become a successful artist.

Paintings of Ray Pike
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"Received your lovely postcard calendar 2010. We salute the spirit of bravery of these talented artists who are not demoted by their disability."
- Jiwan, Delhi

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