09/09/2012 12:33 EDT | Updated 11/08/2012 05:12 EST

I'm a Quadriplegic, and a Painter


My name is Cody Tresierra and I am a disabled artist living in Cloverdale, British Columbia.

When I was 18 I was involved in a motor vehicle accident which left me paralyzed from the neck down as a quadriplegic. After the accident I spent the next five years in Pearson Hospital Rehab Center. When I was there, I remember thinking I would spend the rest of my life doing nothing but eating, sleeping and watching T.V. It was a tough time. But then one day I saw a lady at the centre painting using her mouth. It got me interested and I asked her if I could give it a try. She let me, I loved it immediately and that's how it all started.

From that day on, I began practicing painting holding the brush in my mouth. I found the ability to create something by myself both satisfying and exciting. As my paintings began to improve my mother came across the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA) here in Canada and got in touch with the organization. It was my mother who first submitted a sample of my paintings to the MFPA and, thankfully, they liked it enough to take me on as a student. I've been painting with them ever since and it has had such positive impact on my life by allowing me to earn an income through sales of reproduced art pieces.

In April of this year, I was asked if I wanted to be a part of a project called" Canvassing the Country: A travelling art story." The idea behind the project was to not only create awareness for MFPA and the high quality art work being produced by disabled artists like myself, but to push the important message of "Self Help." "Self Help" is actually the motto of the MFPA and really something artists like myself believe so strongly in.


*A photo of my art

The project saw seven artists all across Canada collaborate on one canvas. Each artist would get a section of the canvas to paint a picture of either their region of Canada or something else very Canadian. Being from the west coast I chose to paint a picture of Stanley Park that had totem poles in it -- very British Columbia, at least I think so.

I was the first artist to receive the sizeable 3 x 4 ft canvas and was given two weeks to complete the painting before it was shipped to another artist, Penny Oman, in Edmonton, Alberta. During those two weeks I was also asked to film the process so that the story could be shared with the public. The videos not only included footage of us as we painted, but we were also asked to share our thoughts and hopes for the campaign. All the videos were then posted online to a site created specifically for the campaign:

Throughout the summer the painting moved across Canada to provinces like Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario. The painting is now almost done and currently in Ontario where the final artist, Amanda Orichefsky, is making the finishing touches. I know MFPA is working on finding a home for the piece as we would love to have it be a gift to Canada that can inspire others.

I'm thankful that I got to participate in this campaign. My hope is that others with disabilities will see that they can make a difference in their own lives. I hope that this campaign will bring more awareness to MFPA artists here in Canada and the work we put out. I think people would be surprised, and hopefully impressed, to see what you can accomplish holding a paintbrush in either your mouth or with your feet.

I also hope that this campaign will draw awareness to the mailings we ship out each October. It'd be great if people were familiar with our organization before the mailings arrive as that is a big part of how MFPA artists make a living. I am really looking forward to seeing the final piece and am optimistic for the future.