Talent at Her Fingertip
You don’t have to be able to hold a pencil or a paintbrush to be an artist. And Natalie Fiske proves just that. She works magic on a canvas using only one finger and her imagination.
A client at St. Ann Center’s Stein Campus, Natalie was born with cerebral palsy and a spine disorder that requires her to use a wheelchair and limits mobility in her upper body. “That doesn’t mean I’m retired,” she said. “I consider my art my job now.”
The upbeat 31-year-old was drawn to painting three years ago when she discovered one of her aides was also an artist. “I told him I really wanted to try making art and asked if he could help me,” she remembers. “At first, he made stencils for me to use. But after finishing a couple of pictures, I was able to paint freehand.”
To create her amazing acrylics, Natalie uses a special tabletop easel to hold her 16-in. x 20-in. canvas. Since it’s hard for her to grip, her right index finger is her paintbrush. “Usually, I have three or four paintings going at once,” Natalie said, “so I always have a painting to work on when others are drying.” Applying finger stroke after colorful finger stroke, her most intricate pieces take more than two months to finish.
“Go for it. If I can do it, so can you.” – Natalie Fiske
Natalie came to St. Ann Center a little over a year ago when health issues made it necessary for her to leave a job training center. To make her muscles less rigid, she gets regular massages at the center. Another favorite activity is singing in the Stein Campus adult choir. “I enjoy music,” she said, adding she has made several friends in the choir. “Everyone here is so nice. People care about one another.”
Natalie has a growing portfolio of paintings. Her subjects range from flowers to Star Wars characters to her boyfriend at a Packers game. “I especially like painting pets and capturing their expressions,” she said. In fact, her pet portraits have become a burgeoning business. She paints both dogs and cats on commission.
Natalie’s work has been exhibited at the IndependenceFirst Gallery Night which showcases artists with disabilities. She sees each of her pictures as proof that people with disabilities can live full, exciting lives.
Natalie has one piece of important advice for others who want to pursue their passion, “Go for it,” she said. “If I can do it, so can you.”
Natalie’s story is just one example of how your connection to St. Ann Center helps enhance the lives of people of all ages and abilities. In the April-June issue of Season’s of Life, you will find more stories of the difference generous people like you are making at St. Ann Center every day.