An artist after injury: Keith Jansz

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Keith Jansz started painting for the first time since primary school in 1995. Then, two months after completing the London Marathon he suffered a broken neck in a tragic car accident, resulting in complete paralysis from the shoulders down. Keith turned to painting, with the added challenge of painting with his mouth instead of his hands.

What first inspired you to pick up a paintbrush?
My mother in law bought me a book entitled ‘Painters First’ by the international Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. The book is full of stories of great tragedies the authors have suffered in their lives, and more importantly, the great successes that they have achieved through painting and art. Reading the book was the spark which inspired me to paint.

What role did painting play in helping you to come to terms with your injury?
Painting has been my salvation. Totally. When I am painting outside, I feel the same excitement that rugby players feel on the field when the opposing team are rushing towards them. There is so much going on; you have to capture the light, make quick decisions as to which way to go with your painting, and what to do.

What is the most memorable portrait or landscape you have painted and why?
The painting that is by far the most popular, is one which is currently on tour. It is a Venetian scene on a big, four foot square canvas. It is a captivating scene and is the first of its size that I have painted. It has probably been the most successful too. It has been exhibited around the world, and most recently in Taiwan. I have photographs of Al Gore looking at it at an exhibition in Atlanta.

It is a captivating scene; a woman shielding her eyes from the light almost, but looking towards the Piazza San Marco. It’s filled with atmosphere, people and the spectacular light.

I also have a painting of Tower Bridge which I painted on New Year’s Day 2007. We had stayed in London overnight, and were recovering from hangovers. We went down to the South Bank and saw Tower Bridge glowing against the background of the city. Tower Bridge also has good memories for me as I came over it as part of the end of the London Marathon.

What is your advice for people who have been recently spinal cord injured?
It is so important to have good people around you. Surround yourself with people who are going help you to open your eyes to see the things that you can’t possibly when you are first and recently injured.

I wasn’t open to anything [in the future] at all when I was first injured because I wasn’t ready. When you are ready, and your eyes open, you’ll welcome the opportunity to look around and see that you can live a life.

What are your hopes for the future of spinal cord injury research?
There will be a discovery. There is no doubt about it, and it will work. It will be marvellous and miraculous. Until such time, live your life.

Find out more about Keith on his website and the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists at