By ALEASHA BLISS
“Look mum, I’m just like dad,” three-year-old Jorjah exclaims, as she draws with a crayon held in her mouth.
She is mimicking her father Andrew Evans, a quadriplegic, a man she has spent her life watching as he designs detailed masterpieces.
When Andrew was a teenager he was a “fit, young bloke” who had spent a few years growing up on a dairy farm. He was a budding professional footballer, being paid to play rugby league for Easts Seniors at Coorparoo while finishing Year 12. This year he also began his life-long love story, when he started dating Melissah.
After graduating Andrew decided to give football a break and volunteered alongside his father at the Tamborine Rural Fire fighting service. He tried his hand at a few different jobs while he discovered what he wanted to do as a career. After a year of exploring, a friend twisted his arm to join the Slacks Creek Football team.
The then 18-year-old was 180cm, more than 100 kilograms and took to the field on June 23, 2001. His first game for the club was also his last, when a tackle left him unable to get up, with a break at the C4-C5 vertebrae high in his neck.
“It all happened really quick,” he says. “It felt like I was lying on the ground for an eternity waiting for the ambulance to turn up. I had pins and needles from the chest down and I just knew what had happened straight away.”
Andrew woke up with a respirator tube down his throat doing the breathing for him, and he could only move his shoulders. He spent seven months in hospital, working hard to regain slight movement in his arms.
But despite this, Andrew did not let his situation hold him back from living his life and living it fully. He married Melissah in 2006, fathered two daughters, Jorjah and Isabellah, and threw himself into creating intricate drawings and humorous imagery using only his mouth.
“The bottom line is I had no choice about my situation, just had to lump it or leave it,” he says. “I had to adapt, crack on and get on with life. It could always be worse – I could be dead.”
Andrew’s drawings are intricate and oozing with detail. They take patience, skill and dedication, and some of his pieces take up to four weeks to create. He loves line art and one of his Mehndi henna designed elephants took him 65 hours and 36,685 brush strokes to complete. He switches between drawing with pencil and paper to digital images on an iPad – which records all the details of the masterpiece.
Andrew’s YouTube channel and Instagram following are increasing as he has converted some of his artwork into items to sell, allowing him to make a living off his talent.
His business, Smart Mouth Art, is seeing people buy bedspreads, gym tights and more recently – face masks, that are all sporting his mouth-drawn artistic creations. He is releasing a yoga range this month – consisting of leggings, tank tops and towels. His items are currently being sold on Pinterest and his followers are loving his quirky designs.
A few of his cheeky pieces have landed him in trouble as he has created some “disability humour” cartoons. He says these provide him with a release from the seriousness of everyday struggles and delight his followers with his unique way to make light of the situation.
“I like to make people laugh with my drawings, and I am a quadriplegic artist,” he says. “If we can’t laugh at ourselves, where is the fun in life?”
See Andrew in full creative mode below: