My name is Kaileen. I am 28 years old and I am a mouth painter living in Greater Vancouver, Canada. I am a Student Member of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA). I have a very rare form of Charcot-Marie-Tooth – type 2D. For a detailed description, please use our good friend, Google. To sum it up in a few words, my muscles are very weak and progressively worsening.
I would say my love for art started at a young age. When I was 7 years-old, I was hospitalized for five weeks and I remember colouring a picture for the front of my medical binder and loving doing that. I took many art classes throughout highschool; it was always my favourite class. I did everything with my hands at that point, from sketching to pointillism. It was hard for me, took me more time than other students and made me tired, but I never considered stopping. Creating art allowed me to express myself in a way nothing else could.
Over the past 10 years I have lost many abilities, one of which is the use of my arms and hands for most things. Due to this, I had gone a long time without creating much art. In November 2017 that all changed.
My boyfriend casually mentioned to me that there is an association called the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. This association consists of people who paint using their mouth or feet. For some reason that sparked something inside of me. I didn’t have any painting background, but I decided to give painting with my mouth a try! I ordered cheap watercolour paint, paper, and paint brushes from Amazon and was ready to start. Except then I realized I didn’t have a way to reach the paper… so I propped up a Lady Gaga book I had and used it as an easel. Then I was really ready to start!
Since then, I have been teaching myself how to paint with watercolour paint, acrylic paint and oh, an actual easel! But most importantly, I’ve learned how to paint using only my mouth.
Mouth painting is as simple as holding a paintbrush in my mouth and painting. However, there is a lot a mouth painter needs to consider when preparing for painting.
First, you don’t want to put just any type of pencil in your mouth to sketch your ideas. Why? Erasers. Have you ever tasted an eraser? I highly recommend that you don’t. Yes, there are pencils without erasers on the end, but with many pencils you can see the top of the lead at the end. Much like erasers, lead is not something you want to taste while sketching.
My solution is to wrap tape around the end of the pencils that I use. I also wrap tape around the end of my brushes to reduce the breakage of the paintbrush material from my teeth. But even then you have to be careful as you don’t want to use a tape that will become soggy, or one with a super sticky adhesive that will get in your mouth. I’ve experienced this the hard way.
Other things I have to consider are the size and weight of the paintbrushes I use. I’m not going to get very far in a painting if my mouth is sore after a few brush strokes. I don’t use any special brushes, I’m just strategic about the ones I use.
I also need to have my palette at a specific height so that I can reach it to mix colours and apply paint to my brush. I have two paintbrush stands that were made for me, which allow me to pick up and put down my brushes as needed. I also have a clipboard stand that allows me to reach a paper towel to clean my brushes.
My completion time really depends on the subject, size, and type of paint used. If I’m painting a smaller sized painting without a reference and using acrylic paint, I can finish the painting in about three or four hours. If I’m painting a detailed acrylic painting, I spend around a week or two working on it, a few hours each day. If I’m doing an oil painting, it takes much longer as the paint is slow drying. Oil paintings have taken me about a month sometimes, although most of that time is waiting for layers to dry.
I’ve noticed people are curious about what inspires me to paint. I have to admit, I don’t have an exact answer for that. What I do know is that I want my art to evoke a feeling when someone sees it. I also want people to see how I taught myself to paint with my mouth and realize that losing an ability you once had doesn’t mean you have to lose something you love.
Many of my paintings have a dark side to them, which was never the intention. I think that the difficulty of living with a progressive disability tends to express itself through my art. I am a positive person, but sometimes life is hard and can suck. But that’s okay in my opinion.
I’m most active in sharing my work and behind the scenes of my mouth painting experience on Instagram @artbykaileen. My website artbykaileen.com has an online shop page where you can see what I have for sale. As I am a Student Member of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, many of my paintings are sent to the association so I don’t sell a lot on my site. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter @artbykaileen.
I still have so much more to learn, but am a firm believer in the statement that we really never stop learning. So that’s my journey as a mouth painter! Sure I’m no pro; however, I can say with my whole heart that I love painting. My dream is for it to be my career and I will never stop working towards that goal.
To support CMT research I will be auctioning off this round sunset painting and all proceeds will go to HNF. Art Auction for CMT, Bid to Win! CMTresearch.givesmart.com
*Auction ends June 12th at 5:00pm.