Robert Thome was a high school football player pursuing his dream of playing football when his neck was broken during a high school football game. He unfortunately lost the ability to walk and has been a quadriplegic ever since. After losing the ability to use his hands, he was given a new lease on life when he was taught to paint using his mouth. To this day, Robert’s painted more than 1,000 pieces and even one for 45th Vice President of the United States, Al Gore since joining the Mouth and Foot Painting Association, a for profit group that includes approximately 750 members in over 75 countries. Robert joined me yesterday to discuss his involvement in the Mouth and Foot Painting Association, and share how we can give back to this wonderful organization of inspirational and phenomenally talented artists who make their living selling the art they create with using their mouth or feet.
Candace Rose: You’re such a talented artist and inspiration. How did art become such an important part of your life?
Robert Thome: “It was always my passion. Sports and art have always been my passion, but at the age of 15 I broke my neck in a high school football game which left me paralyzed from the neck down, so I had no use of my arms and my hands. But in the hospital during my rehabilitation they taught me how to use a pen in my mouth, and a paintbrush in my mouth. And once I was able to master that I was able to do some decent images, and then I later on heard about this organization called the International Mouth and Foot Painting Artists and I submitted a portfolio to them of six paintings and then they accepted me as a student.”
Candace Rose: Can you tell us how the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists enables you and your fellow artists to make a career with your art?
Robert Thome: “It’s a wonderful organization. It started in 1956 by an artist named Erich Stegmann, and he started with just a handful of artists (about five artists) and now it’s grown to about 800. And of the 800, 68 are Americans. We make our money by selling our greeting cards and our calendars. And hopefully this holiday season we’ll be mailing out our samples of our calendars and our greeting cards, and people will enjoy them and accept them and be inspired by them.”
Candace Rose: Absolutely! Do you have any additional information you’d like to share with us?
Robert Thome: “Well, just that the organization is a wonderful opportunity for a guy like me who is severely disabled to be able to be a functioning part of society, and my life is really a dream right now. And if there’s any information about any of the artists, myself or any of the artists overseas, all you have to do is contact MFPAUSA.com.”
Candace Rose: Can we find your holiday cards there?
Robert Thome: “Yes, you can.”