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Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

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Ruben Rios

Hi my name is Ruben and I am an artist.  In 1988, I was injured from a gunshot wound; I was 18 years old.  I’m a C-3 complete quad and 24 hour vent dependent.  Shortly after my injury, I started using a mouth stick and a ball point pen to do some sketches.  A few of them ended up in the display case at my rehab center.  They were spotted by a local artist in the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists.  He then took it upon himself to kind of inspire me and tell me all about the association.  So, for the next couple of years, I tried to produce a body of work that I thought would be sufficient for me to be accepted into this very prestigious association.

At 18, Ruben Rios was shot in the back at close range. His spinal cord injury level is C-3 complete quad and 24 hour dependent.  !8 years later, Ruben is a painter and a member of the prestigious Association of Foot and Mouth Painting Artists.

I create art mostly in the same way I did when I started, pointillism.  I use fine point felt tip pens and I “stipple” or dot my way through the piece.  First, I draw an outline with pencil and then I’ll color in the sketch, dropping in different colors and layers.  It takes anywhere from 20 to 60 hours to complete a piece from beginning to end with this method.

I’ve also experimented using acrylics and oils in the more traditional form of painting by creating strokes with the paintbrush.  I have been working on a painting of Christopher Reeve in this style mixing strokes and dots.

What I had in mind for the piece was to show Christopher as Superman, when he was able bodied.  So, I’ve created a portrait of him that way in the piece.  And I have a portrait of him after his injury in the piece as well.  It’s more than a portrait though.  It’s kind of like a fantasy style centerpiece which is the wheelchair and a Superman-like angel flying off the wheelchair, complete with wings.  So, he’s kind of flying out of earth’s atmosphere into the great beyond.

I never would have guessed in 1988 that I’d be painting with mouth sticks or paintbrushes and have a career as an artist.    My art has been the biggest thing in my life that has kept me goal oriented and not just stagnant and sitting in one position.  I have something to achieve.  And if it weren’t for the opportunity I was given to pursue a career as an artist, I don’t think I’d be where I am today.  I wouldn’t have the same quality of life.  So, I’m grateful.

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The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time. International callers use 973-467-8270. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 90PR3001, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.