Wheelchair Art: Turning Your Wheels Into a Paintbrush

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Creating art can be quite cathartic, especially if you’ve gone through a traumatic bodily experience like a spinal cord injury.  And while many people with spinal cord injuries have discovered painting post-injury, not many use their wheels as their paintbrush. It’s a very cool growing art however.

From a manual wheelchair-user creating thin lines with his wheels to a power wheelchair-user creating art with a more robust tire-track look, check out three videos below showing one of the coolest art forms to exist solely because of a wheelchair.

In our first video, meet renowned California artist, a paraplegic injured while motorcycling when he was 20. After his injury, cycling had to fall to the wayside but he picked up a new love post-injury – painting. But not just any old kind of painting; he paints with the wheels on his wheelchair, and his style is abstract expressionism.

In a video made by the University of Southern California for their “USC Impact” series, Martin shares his injury story and demonstrates how he paints with his wheelchair. In the video, he specifically talks about his process and how his painting style removes him from the work, letting the lines of his wheels speak for themselves. Watch Martin show his work to a teen with a disability visiting his studio

To see a device created specifically for painting using your wheelchair, but not with your wheels but by using the device, check out the Mobile Painting Device (MPD), created by artist Jeff Nachtigall from Saskatoon, Canada. It allows precise paints strokes via the joystick, with an arm attachment attached to a wheel on the floor. As you drive on the canvas, the out-jutting wheels create art.

Jeff himself is able-bodied too, but that didn’t stop him from creating this awesome device. What I like about this variation of painting with your wheelchair is that while others have used their own wheels to create art, this just uses the wheelchair as the handle of the paintbrush. Check out a time lapse of a massive painting done using the MPD

To see the most successful wheelchair “wheel painting” artist to ever exist, check out this video of Tommy Hollenstein on The Doctors. Tommy was injured 20 years ago in a mountain biking accident and only happened upon painting with his wheels because he wanted to capture the paw prints of his beloved and service dog, who sadly was aging.

After creating his first piece of work, he realized he had a talent and began to do it full time. Tommy has sold hundreds of paintings since starting his career, and has even had celebrity buyers such as Ringo Starr and Joaquin phoenix. Watch Tommy get profiled on The Doctors TV show

There are dozens of hobbies we discover after our injuries, painting is definitely one of them, but this by far has got to be one of the most ingenious. The mess however, now that’s a different story.

Have you created art with your wheels? Any examples of your own wheelchair art to share? 

Watch the videos about creative wheelchair art

– Martin Vogel, a paraplegic, talks about his wheelchair art using his wheels to paint for USC

– Jeff N, who paints with his powerchair to create wheelchair art, created The Mobile Painting Device

– Tommy Hollenstein, a quad, showing his wheelchair art on The Doctors TV show


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