BALTIMORE — Brushes glide across the canvas with each stroke, creating scenes most people can’t do by hand. Except this artist, Robert Florio, paints with his mouth.
A quadriplegic resident of Glen Burnie, Maryland paints by rotating her head and neck with a brush attached to a mouthpiece.
For 40-year-old Florio, who injured himself in his teens after jumping into a friend’s four-foot-deep pool and hitting his head on the bottom, it’s a daunting task.
“I was a wild kid who didn’t think too hard,” he said.
The dive damaged his spinal cord and left him unable to use his limbs. Twenty-six years later, Florio has built a career at Easel, painting everything from athletes to aliens.
After the accident he said: “Are you really hopeless?” I thought. I didn’t give up, but what should I do? So I rewrote my life. ”
You’re a painter.
His Babe Ruth portrait is on display at the downtown Slugger Museum. Florio has played Ravens great Ray his Lewis and Orioles Hall of Famer Cal his Ripken his junior. He painted Jay his Gibbons and presented his work to the Orioles outfielders in a pregame presentation at Camden Yards in 2003. , Thank you for teaching me the true meaning of life.
Florio also shoots holiday scenes such as one of two smiling snowmen in a winter landscape and one of the adorable dachshunds in Santa hats.
“My energy level is higher at Christmas,” he said. “It’s a magical time.”
Florio has not lost hope of recovery. He underwent treatments such as stem cell therapy and tried his meditations to be able to walk again. One of the reasons he believes in extraterrestrials is because he believes they have better healing powers than humans.
During that time, he talked to youth groups, earned a college degree, even learned to play the guitar, and put together a life for himself. I tried. He performed at several local clubs with acts of trolling the dark humor of his doom.
“When you go through hard times, you try to look on the bright side,” Florio said. “At a comedy club, the headliner said to me, ‘Rob, that nurse you brought is really sexy. How do you get a nurse like that?'”
“I looked at him and went back to myself and said, ‘You have to do this.’ ”
A joke like that helps keep Florio going. Ask him why his arm is covered in tattoos.
“Why not?” he said. ‘When I was getting [the tattoos]I didn’t feel anything.
Ask him what he thinks about living with his parents at 40.
“Jesus was 33 years old when he returned with his father.”
In 2010, Florio wrote his autobiography, Life!
Another book is Oki, a fantasy tale of an otherworldly Santa Claus. increase. story?
“He’s here because bad kids have taken over Santa’s old planet,” said Florio, who illustrated the work. We see the magic he can do to help him say, ‘It’s time to fix the earth.'”
Desire to help and heal
His efforts have curative themes. Florio, who earned an online degree from the Pittsburgh Museum of Art, wants to create video games for people with disabilities.
“In rehab [at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital], was taken to a playroom where the children were playing video games. I was told “there is nothing for you”. My dream is to make games for people who can’t use their hands. I want to help them heal. ”
Art was an outlet long before disaster struck.
It felt natural to me. I gravitated toward it,” said Florio.
In first grade, he drew a picture of a ninja turtle and sold it to a classmate for 50 cents each.
“I felt like I had done something great and should have been rewarded for it,” he said.
A member of the international group Mouth & Foot Painting Artists, Florio sold nearly 100 paintings of landscapes, sunsets, flowers and dogs for $100. His work is in watercolor, acrylic and oil, a laborious process that takes him 30 hours to complete.
“Sometimes my neck and mouth get tired and I have to quit,” he said.
Pain is inevitable. Since the accident, Florio has had two spinal surgeries to ease his pain. Most of his neck is fused. Still, he stays near the easel.
“Painting is useful, but sometimes you just don’t have the energy or the heart to do it,” he said. “When you do that, the creative process creates a very uplifting feeling.”
Sleep brings a break from reality.
“Whenever I dream, I’m walking on a tropical beach,” said Florio. “Then I wake up and think, ‘Wow, that felt good.
Last year marked the 25th anniversary of his injury and Florio acknowledged the moment.
“It was something I celebrated, a milestone for me to overcome, a power push,” he said. ”
Alive, but not kicked yet.
“Meditating on high can leave your body feeling tingly and in shock,” he said. “I don’t imagine it.”
Whatever the future holds, Florio is certain of one thing.
“I think it still has potential.”