Color & Control:

How painting changed my life

facebookimage How painting changed my life

By Stevie Stefano

Ever since I can remember, I’d wished I had been born with the talent of a portrait painter. But I was always under the impression that if you were not born with this talent, you could never become an accomplished artist. Nevertheless, my plan was to take painting lessons once I retired.


At the age of 37, everything changed when an accident—one that by all rights should have taken my life—left me permanently disabled. The direction of my life, and that of my wife and son, was changed forever. I now require the use of a wheelchair and I have very limited range of motion in my arms. After the accident, I no longer thought about painting, as it wasn’t something I felt I could ever do.


An eye-opening experience

While out at my local mall one day, I noticed an artist in front of a gallery store painting a portrait. I watched him as he worked and approached him to tell him how much I admired his talent. We chatted for a while, and he asked me if I had ever wanted to learn how to paint. I explained my love for the art but added that since I had no born talent and now had no physical ability, painting for me had become a lost dream. He then asked me a very important and eye-opening question: “Why do you think you cannot paint?” I explained that I couldn’t extend my arms far enough to reach the canvas. He went into the back room of the store and returned with a wooden box. The lid turned out to be an easel. He then placed a canvas on it and handed me a paintbrush. With this small box on my lap, I realized that I could paint. He then asked me if I would feel comfortable painting if I used this system. I said, “Yes!” I was so excited, because my dream to paint was not dead.


I began taking weekly lessons offered at the gallery. I will be forever grateful to my first art teacher for giving me the opportunity to accomplish one of my goals despite my limitations.


A dream come true

For me, painting was a dream come true and a way of overcoming adversity. I remember my first lesson as if it were yesterday. From the moment I first put paint on my brush and applied it to the canvas, I knew my life was about to change again—this time for the good.



Painting for me became a great escape from my daily routine. My next goal was to be able to set myself up to paint without anyone’s help. When I was being assessed for a new wheelchair, I had them install an adjustable supportive bracket to my chair, allowing me to easily mount a portable easel, which enables me to go outside and paint independently.


I cannot express enough how much painting has given me a whole new perspective.


Today I’ve expanded my range of artwork to include portraitures, animals and still life. I really enjoy learning how the classical painters of the Italian Renaissance mastered their craft, and I have been fortunate to find a local teacher who was classically trained in Florence, so my artwork has taken on a whole new dimension.


The moral of my story: Find what it is you love to do, then get out there and make it work for you. Nothing is more rewarding!


Stevie Stefano is a classically trained oil painter and proud member of Local Colour Aurora and the Newmarket Group of Artists. His artwork has been on display at the Newmarket and Aurora Town offices, as well as many community centres and business establishments in the area.


Note from the author: I just wanted to drop a quick note to thank you and all involved in publishing my story. I have been overwhelmed with positive comments, especially some who have written to me to express how my story as helped them with their own personal difficulties. Those comments just put a smile on my face. Thank you ever so much. — Stevie Stefano

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