Every brush stroke controlled by his mouth, paralyzed man finds art success after accident

Marcus Thomas slowly dips his brush into one of the many droplets of paint laid out in front of his easel. W...

Posted: Sep 7, 2018 1:26 PM
Updated: Sep 7, 2018 1:26 PM

Marcus Thomas slowly dips his brush into one of the many droplets of paint laid out in front of his easel. With his hands resting on his chair, he carefully puts brush to canvas and, with a precise touch, paints a feather on a bird.

Every brush stroke is controlled by his mouth. Thomas is paralyzed from the neck down.

Arts and entertainment

Diseases and disorders

Health and medical

Neurological disorders and injuries

Paralysis

Snow skiing

Sports and recreation

Visual arts

Accidents

Accidents, disasters and safety

Skiing and snowboard accidents

A final run

Thomas didn't grow up painting. The avid outdoorsman and his future wife, Anne, spent their youth playing sports, bike-riding and skiing together.

After graduating college with a degree in outdoor recreation-resort management, Thomas worked at a ski resort on Beech Mountain in North Carolina. He hoped to one day run a Four Seasons Resort.

At the end of the workday on March 3, 1986, Thomas closed up the ski shop and hit the slopes. On his last run, he fell and slammed into the base of a tree.

"I have no memory of the accident. I just know the right people were in place to save my life. They resuscitated me three times on the way to the hospital."

The near-fatal accident left Thomas a C3-4 quadriplegic at age 26, unable to move his arms or legs and breathing through a respirator. During his three-month stay in the ICU, Thomas had to learn to breathe on his own again while he and Anne Thomas adjusted to their new reality.

"We had to relearn how to move forward without the physical abilities we had prior to the accident," he said. "Now, Anne is carrying us both."

"He was paralyzed, but he still had his brain," Anne Thomas said. "It's amazing to have all of your cognitive abilities. We're the lucky ones."

Picturing the future

After his release from the hospital, Thomas pondered his future and started work on a master's degree. But it was an offhand gift from his wife that enabled him to picture his future: a set of watercolors and a paintbrush he could hold in his mouth.

"I bought him the watercolors, he started painting, and that was it. He was hooked."

Her first impression of his work?

"It was terrible. About the third-grade level."

But for Thomas, it was a stroke of freedom.

"I realized I could live outdoors through my painting. Live outside of my mind, outside of the physical existence."

Soon, an hour or two of painting a day turned into seven or eight.

Within a year and a half of his first painting, Thomas and his wife were selling calendars of his work and entering art shows.

Flight of the mind

Thomas now spends much of his time in front of a canvas with a mouth-stick paintbrush. If he's not painting, he's most likely at an art show with Anne where they sell his work.

"The best compliment is [when customers] see the work first. They engage with the work, and then with a little more exploration, they figure out that I'm painting it with my mouth."

Thomas' work includes wildlife scenes, landscapes and surreal Dali-like compositions.

"I love to message through a multilayered story. I love the idea of flight. Maybe that's because I'm paralyzed. The freedom of thought is much the same as the freedom of flight."

Anne Thomas said that painting has become the reason Thomas wakes up every day with a smile. Some of his larger works can take three months to complete, but as Thomas said, he's "always living the dream of painting."

It has given his life purpose and a way to vividly express himself.

"My voice isn't so good anymore, but through my paintbrush, I can say a lot."

Lafayette
Cloudy
33° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 25°
Kokomo
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 21°
Rensselaer
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 21°
Lafayette
Cloudy
33° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 25°
Danville
Cloudy
31° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 20°
Frankfort
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 21°
Frankfort
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 21°
Monticello
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 22°
Monticello
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 22°
Logansport
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 19°
Snow showers......
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 587049

Reported Deaths: 9287
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion810691296
Lake44121665
Allen31797541
Hamilton28178303
St. Joseph26684369
Elkhart24057340
Vanderburgh18519213
Tippecanoe17305121
Johnson14398284
Porter14342159
Hendricks13793241
Madison10509212
Vigo10432171
Clark10151129
Monroe9029108
Delaware8782129
LaPorte8721153
Kosciusko784677
Howard7834137
Warrick636790
Hancock633297
Bartholomew624294
Floyd6098105
Wayne5903156
Grant5799109
Dubois541670
Boone531467
Morgan512388
Marshall492484
Henry491164
Cass469060
Noble458757
Dearborn454544
Jackson413145
Shelby401178
Lawrence379475
Clinton363639
Gibson355056
DeKalb336363
Montgomery333851
Harrison326042
Knox325439
Miami308243
Steuben304940
Adams294435
Whitley292325
Wabash291645
Ripley290845
Putnam282447
Huntington281257
Jasper280733
White265738
Daviess260772
Jefferson248538
Fayette241348
Decatur241282
Greene232460
Posey230026
Wells228547
LaGrange223461
Clay216432
Scott216437
Randolph207540
Jennings191335
Sullivan188531
Spencer179917
Fountain178625
Washington175018
Starke170741
Jay162021
Fulton158829
Owen157837
Carroll151315
Orange150533
Rush148118
Perry145327
Vermillion144333
Franklin142533
Parke12788
Tipton127332
Pike113125
Blackford107022
Pulaski94637
Newton89020
Brown85530
Benton84110
Crawford7479
Martin69213
Warren6537
Switzerland6175
Union6063
Ohio4647
Unassigned0374

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events