A FORMER soldier and devout Catholic, who lost the use of his arms and legs after severing his spinal cord in a swimming accident, will unveil his first sculpture in a solo exhibition in Glasgow today.
Edward Rainey, 43, uses his mouth to sculpt and paint and is studying towards
full membership of the prestigious Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, and is taking a a degree course at Glasgow School of Art.
Mr Rainey, of Pollok, Glasgow, suffered his horrific diving accident while on holiday in Marbella, Spain, for his stag celebrations when he was 23.
"I dived into a swimming pool and underneath the water there was a three-foot bit of marble sticking up and my head hit it. I broke my neck, severing my spinal cord with three of my vertebrae.
"I lost the use of my limbs, my arms and my legs and my upper body. I lost the use of my chest muscles, meaning I was only breathing by my diaphragm.
"After they flew me back to Glasgow, the injuries were so bad that I was given just three days to live, but by the grace of God, I managed to survive.
"I couldn’t speak for six to eight weeks and I lay in bed for four to six months. But I wanted to do something positive and take something positive from such a negative thing."
He first got the idea of using his mouth to paint when his aunt received a Christmas card which had been produced by the association.
That inspired him to start practising sketching, and he was eventually accepted on a scholarship by the association.
When he achieves full membership he will be the only Scottish painter among the group’s 600 disabled artists around the world.
A German-based company produces calendars and Christmas cards featuring the artists’ work, and holds exhibitions.
Since joining, he has painted for Princess Anne after meeting her in a Glasgow hospital and has also received a letter of support from the Superman actor Christopher Reeve, who suffered spinal injuries in a riding accident.
Working from his Glasgow home, Mr Rainey uses a special easel which sits over his wheelchair, and he has recently branched out into sculpture.
His mother Katie, 70, places the brushes or, when he is sculpting, a brush with special attachments, in his mouth for him. When he paints, it takes about six to eight weeks to finish a piece and he varies his style between modern art and traditional portraits.
He said: "I love sculpting and painting. Being in a wheelchair allows you to see and interpret things differently.
"All I need is for someone to bring me the clay, spray it with water to soften it and leave me to concentrate on shaping it. I’m working on a sculpture self-portrait at the moment, which is very interesting."
Edward Rainey’s first solo exhibition takes place at the Mitchell Library from 11am today. Entry is free.