BENSALEM, Pa. -- Skyler Granville lives in a place of simple joys.
He reaches stratospheric levels of satisfaction in working with the colors blue and orange. He leans back in his electronic wheelchair and smiles in delight when he dips his feet into a palette of wet tempera paints, feeling the "slimy" sensations on his toes.
Born with cerebral palsy, Granville cannot speak or use his hands. Yet the 23-year-old from southeastern Pennsylvania has learned to communicate with the world through hundreds of paintings — each work as vibrant as a field of sunflowers under a clear blue sky.
All of these works were made with his feet. On display at the Bucks County Visitors Center through Nov. 1, Granville’s paintings are selling fast.
Skyler began painting as a student at HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy, a Philadelphia learning and therapy center for students up to 21 years old who have severe, multiple disabilities usually resulting from cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury or other neurological impairments.
Since graduating from that program, he continues his work with certified recreational therapist Diane Williams, who helped arrange Skyler's exhibition at the visitor's center in Bucks County.
“I don’t have any difficulties painting,” Granville said, using his elbow to operate a touch-screen keyboard, connected to a computer speaker. “I’ve been painting for a while now. My paintings have improved a lot. I also like to include lots of red in my paintings. I use a lot of color to see the mixture and what it creates.
“I aspire to have my own studio in my house,” he continued. “I also aspire to have my own works showcased in the Philadelphia art museum. I hope to spread my unique artwork throughout Pennsylvania.”
From his home in Bensalem, Granville travels on a SEPTA customized community transportation van to the Settlement Music School and art therapy center in Northeast Philadelphia, where art therapist Yael Tsoran removes the leg braces from his wheelchair and positions a canvas near his feet.
Artist or not, everyone should try painting with their toes, he said. “The paint feels good on my feet and toes,” he said. “It’s wet and slimy. You should try it.”
His therapist will soon give it a try.
"I think, in one session, I may join him," said Tsoran, who uses art to help patients with various issues. Some are victims of violence and sexual assault, and they use painting as path through the pain, she said. "It's just the therapeutic power of creating something, and, with Skyler, I think it just proves that art therapy can work with anyone."