The inspiring man behind our December cover

BY Tom Browne

1st Jan 2015 Life

The inspiring man behind our December cover

It’s difficult to imagine a more inspiring person than our cover artist, mouth painter Barry West.

A quadriplegic since the age of 19 as a result of a car accident, Barry has nevertheless—with a bit of assistance—climbed Scafell Pike, Ben Nevis (in the winter) and Snowdon (four times). And a few years ago, he discovered the art of mouth painting.

“When the idea was first suggested, I thought, You’re having a laugh, aren’t you?” says Barry, who’d never picked up a brush in his life. But now, with over a hundred paintings to his name, the laugh has become a reality.

In February this year, our art director Yvey Bailey was contacted by the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA): would we be interested, they asked, in featuring one of their paintings on our December cover? This would be good publicity for the MFPA, who sell Christmas cards and products through their website during this period.

Barry West
Image: Barry working on our December cover

Although intrigued, we replied with another suggestion: we’d commission an original painting instead, specially designed with our cover in mind. And from the examples we’d seen, Barry West was the obvious choice.

A few months later, we were sitting in Barry’s front room, sipping tea and staring in awe at the artwork on his walls. We had to remind ourselves that these were painted with his mouth only, in a specially adapted studio at Barry’s home.

Before arriving we’d been nervous. Would a mouth painter be able to handle our commission? But Barry dispelled all our doubts as we chatted through concepts and deadlines.“I’m always up for a challenge!” he said at one point.

Once we agreed on a design, Barry set to work, sending us sketches and updates. And in October, we got to see the finished painting. Every single member of our team was genuinely bowled over, and we hope our readers like it too. You might even see it as an MFPA Christmas card next year!

The final cover:


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