Tarpon Springs man finds passion for 'mouth painting' after accident leaves him paralyzed

When Chris Kuster's pen or paint brush hits paper, his wildest imaginations instantly come to life.

"I'm one of those artists that everything is extremely random," Kuster said as he drew from his colorfully decorated studio inside his Tarpon Springs home. "Some days, I'll do an oil painting, some days I want to draw cartoons."

Flipping through books of his incredible work, it's hard to believe his talent is far from other artist's – because it's all done by mouth.

"I was injured in 1991 as a 21-year-old kid," Kuster recalled. "I had whole life by the horns, I went to the beach one day to hang out with a bunch of my friends, jumped in the water, hit the bottom, broke my neck, and it turned my body off like a switch and instantly changed my life."

Kuster struggled with depression for years after he was paralyzed. It wasn't until his late sister-in-law, who was a nurse, suggested he take up art therapy. Since he couldn't use his hands, he picked up the tools between his teeth, and the rest was history.

"From there on out, I tried to have a positive outlook on life and make the most of every day," Kuster said.

That was more than 20 years ago. Now, his art has been bought and sold in every country in the world in the form of greeting cards, coloring books, wall paintings and more. 

It was made possible after he became a student member of an organization created for creators just like him: The Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists of the World.

This year, out of hundreds of disabled artists in the organization, a snowman drawing by Kuster was one of six selected to be sold as part of their holiday card collection.

"We've all gotten Christmas cards growing up, and we all send Christmas cards as an adult, and now to have something out there in the world that is something that I've done that's going to go to millions of families around the world, I don't even know the word to use that says how inside it makes me feel connected to everybody on the entire planet," Kuster said.

When taking a break from his craft, he can be found volunteering or wheeling around Tarpon Springs parks for inspiration. Many of his paintings are nature-related. 

He hopes his journey will inspire those with disabilities to never give up, find something they love – and have a little fun with it.

For those interested in buying Kuster's work or learning more about mouth and foot painting artists, you can find more information at mfpausa.com.