A disabled man from Framfield has been offered a prestigious arts scholarship.
Barry (Bazza) West has received a contract scholarship to become a mouth painting artists for the Mouth and Foot Painting Company and he became one of just 36 registered mouth painters in the UK and 800 worldwide.
Bazza was born in Uckfield. As a young boy his first job was at the fishmongers in the market hall then he worked at TR Fastenings in the town. He started running his own gardening business until his life changed on May 22, 1996. It was a rainy day, he swerved to miss a badger in the road, suffered an horrific car accident and his neck was broken in two places.
Since then he has been paralysed from the neck down, cannot use his arms or legs and is dependent on personal assistants 24 hours a day.
Bazza said: “Many years had passed with me thinking why? Or what have I done to deserve this? How can I live with just the use of my head?”
But just 18 months ago, he attempted his biggest adventure of his life, and that was to attempt painting by mouth.
He had never drawn or painted before his injury - let alone by mouth - but he set up an easel so he could reach it with the brush, dabbing and brushing colours onto the paper. He said he didn’t have a clue what he was doing, but something inside him said ‘carry on’.
People approved of his work, so he continued, believing in practice, practice practice - which he has done to improve his skills. He’s watched YouTube, bought ‘how to paint’ DVDs and he has been working with art tutor Christine Cooper.
Bazza started posting his pictures on Facebook resulting in lots of encouraging comments. In May last year his paintings were shown in public for the first time at the Maresfield Conservation Group’s 19th Festival.
He has now produced more than 35 paintings and also exhibited them at the Uckfield Art Trail.
The Mouth and Foot Painting organisation contacted him to arrange a meeting. He showed them some work and waited to see if he might be accepted for a scholarship.
Bazza was delighted to be chosen to carry the iconic Olympic torch on its journey through Rye last summer.
He said: “My motto is never, ever give up and always focus on your ability. I would like to say thank you too to family and friends who encouraged me. I could not have done this without them.”
To follow Bazza West and his mouth painting journey find him on Facebook. To find out a little more about him visit: www.westyuk.co.uk