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Our Artists

Gary Atkins

Gary Atkins


Gary gets most of his inspiration from photographs or pictures and enjoys painting landscapes.

He was encouraged to try mouth-painting by an occupational therapist, while convalescing in hospital after a diving accident left him a quadriplegic.

Initially Gary experimented with black and white sketches and moved on to oils three years later.

He was awarded a MFPA Student Membership in 1981.



Tell me a little about yourself… where are you from, where did you grow up.. what was your childhood like?
I live about 10 km from Dorrigo which is a small town of about 1000 people situated on the mid North Coast of New South Wales and about 60 km south-west of Coffs Harbour the main provincial city in this area.

I was born in Dorrigo and grew up on our family dairy farm which is about 10 km from Dorrigo. Growing up on a farm was a wonderful experience and I’m full of memories from that time. I learnt how to milk cow’s, ride horses, ride motorbikes, drive tractors and the many other facets of farm life like helping cows give birth and tending to sick animals. We had a lot of freedom growing up on a farm and I loved to explore different parts of the property on motorbikes and horses. I was very fond of riding horses and galloping flat out. Cows and animals were my main interest in my youth as well as being fairly active in sports. At school I played cricket and rugby league as well is being competitive in athletics especially track and field. I loved to run and run fast.

When I was just 17 I had a diving accident at school swimming lessons and fractured my cervical vertebra leaving me paralysed from my shoulders down and unable to move anything other than shrugging my shoulders. After my accident I spent 9 1/2 months in Prince Henry Hospital Sydney for recovery and rehabilitation. During my rehab one of my occupational therapists encouraged me to paint with a brush held in my mouth and after coming home from hospital I continued to sketch and paint with brushes and pens held in my mouth.

How did you first hear about MFPA?
I first heard about the mouth and foot painting artists Association before my accident as my parents had been receiving the annual selection of Christmas cards from the Association. I used to read some of the stories of the artists and I was amazed at how they were able to create such incredible artworks despite their disability and I never dreamt that I would be doing the same thing one day.

What inspired you to join MFPA? I was encouraged to submit some of my works to the Association by the wife of our local Anglican minister which I did and after that I received a letter saying that I was accepted as a student member.

Describe yourself in one word. Why that word?
Hopeful… I’m hopeful because I’m a Christian and have faith in our… He is the one who gives me hope.

What is your artistic medium of choice? Why that medium?
I usually paint in oils mainly because I find it easy to work with them and mistakes can be simply covered up. I like the texture that you can create using oils as well. Occasionally I acrylics but prefer oils.

What has been your most touching or amazing moment you’ve experienced as an artist?
One of my paintings was purchased by the local art group and donated to our local high school where it now hangs in the school library. That was touching for me because I’d had my accident at school and to have the painting displayed there was just amazing.What other artists have been inspirational to you in your work? I’m inspired by some of the Impressionists like Monet and some of our Australian artists like Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton. But I was also inspired by some of our mouth painting artists like the late John Smith and Eric Krell and of course current artists like Margaret Greig and Glen Barnett.

What’s your favourite art work?
Definitely Monet and his waterlilies

What is your dream project?
I like painting waterlilies and I have a painting of waterlilies that I did about 30 years ago that is probably my favourite.

On average, how long does it take to finish a painting?
It takes me about two weeks to complete a painting sometimes longer.

Name three artists you’d like tobe compared to.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Don’t try to copy anyone just do your own thing.

Professionally, what’s your goal?
I would like to be able to paint portraits.

What would you say to any aspiring MFPA artists?
Doing just a small amount of work as often as you can achieve a lot.

Anything else you’d like to mention that I didn’t ask?
I want to continue painting and improving and having more work published with the Association.

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