Disabled Artist Uses Thumb, Toe To Pursue Dream


Disabled artist uses thumb, toe to pursue dreamShuhei Nakamura watches the computer screen as the big toe on his left foot moves the trackball of his mouse. When the cursor reaches the right place, his right thumb clicks the touchpad controller.

Using only his toe and thumb, Nakamura repeats the process to select the proper paintbrushes and to choose and mix colors for his artwork.

The award-winning artist has an intractable muscle disease that prevents him from moving almost every part of his body.

“I would like people to learn that there is something bedridden individuals can do,” said Nakamura, 23. “I will be happy if my paintings can give energy to those who view the works.”

Nakamura developed Werdnig-Hoffmann disease immediately after birth. All of the muscles in his body weakened before he had a chance to even lift his head.

At the age of 3, Nakamura became dependent on an artificial ventilator.

While studying at a Shizuoka Prefecture-run special support junior high school for disabled children here, Nakamura began painting watercolors through a computer software program.

His mother, Kiyomi, turns on the computer and sets the mouse in place. Nakamura does the rest.

His art mainly features creatures, such as dinosaurs, dragons, goldfish and swallows. His paintings have been praised as “rich in color,” “cute” and “full of energy,” and they have won many awards, including those for illustrated postcard competitions.

He has held two exhibitions of his works.

The Kamoe Art Center in Hamamatsu lends its rooms for free to artists trying to create new techniques.

Nakamura, who is using one of those rooms until Oct. 20, plans to hold a computer art workshop there between 10 a.m. and noon on Oct. 4 for the general public.

Yohei Yukawa, the 36-year-old director of Maktub, a shop in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, that sells T-shirts and towels featuring Nakamura’s paintings, said he used to teach the young artist at the special support school.

“Shuhei’s works give us a zest for life,” Yukawa said. “They teach us that if people refuse to give up, they can continue living their dreams.”