The young people of Stonehouse Youth Club have been working tirelessly re-working Jon Clayton’s classic painting ‘Nativity’, spending just over 40 hours over a 5 week period to complete the art project. In total, 15 young people had some sort of involvement in the project, whether that was sketching the initial design, painting or applying the finishing touches.

Artist Jon Clayton is part of the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA), who are a group of artists who from birth, or through accident or illness, are unable to use their hands so instead hold a paintbrush in their mouth or with their foot.

Jon visited Stonehouse Youth Club on Sunday 8th November 2015 to assist the six young people who had massive involvement throughout; Jaz Smith, Levi Painter, Charlie Webb, Chloe Sargent, Liam Crowther and Bailey Crowther. The young people had the opportunity to witness how Jon creates his art work via his mouth.

The young artists were initially not aware who created the original nativity painting. They were only told that it was by an inspirational person, and that their work would be exhibited in Gloucester Cathedral. It was only halfway through the process that Youth Worker Matt told the group about Jon’s story: namely, that he was paralysed in a motorbike accident, and through grit and determination learned to mouth paint. He became so proficient in the art that he was eventually accepted as an MFPA member. His Nativity scene, originated three years ago, is now one of the most popular Christmas cards sold by the MFPA.

Jaz Smith, one of Stonehouse Youth Club artists, says: “When we were told that about Jon’s life and how he created the painting, we were shocked and amazed. His story is so inspirational and it gave us an extra boost to finish the painting. A couple of us even tried painting with our mouths and we thought it was impossible – so the fact that Jon painted a beautiful Nativity scene with his mouth is totally mind-blowing. We worked hard to do Jon’s painting justice.”

Jon Clayton, MFPA artist, says: “Amazing art and creativity can come from anyone, and hopefully my original artwork and the young people’s fantastic rendition of it are proof of that. I saw the young people put the finishing touches to their piece and I was overjoyed by the artistry, time and commitment they have put into this project. Gloucester Cathedral has a fine painting to display.”

Youth Worker Matt stated: “This project demonstrates the power that art has to provoke thought and discussion. The young people had never done anything like this before. Painting Jon Clayton’s Nativity scene reconnected them with the Christmas story. We like to teach the young people new skills; by expanding their minds as well as their artistic abilities, this wonderful project with the MFPA did that and more. It had never crossed the young people’s minds before that a work like The Nativity could be painted by mouth; by engaging with this process themselves it pushed the boundaries of their previous understanding of art.”

The painting was unveiled on Monday 9th November 2015 in the Cloisters at Gloucester Cathedral, where it will be exhibited until January 2016, for all of the public to view.

All at Young Gloucestershire and Stonehouse Town Council are so proud what the young people of Stonehouse Youth Club have achieved – massive well done to the Stonehouse Massive! Also, a massive thank you to Jon, for all his support in finishing the artwork and his inspiration throughout!

For more information on the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA) and also their Christmas card and calendar range, visit: www.mfpa.co.uk