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Meet the Artist Who Paints Portraits Using Only His Mouth: Henry Salas

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By: burgundy bug

“A Suffering” by Henry Salas

Source: Henry Salas

Henry Salas, “@themouthartist” on Instagram, is an artist and illustrator who draws inspiration from traditional realism while inspiring others with his story.

Using nothing but his mouth, Salas has been digitally painting hyper-realistic portraits for the better half of a decade.

Recently, we spoke with Salas via email to learn more about his story and his techniques as an artist.

Tell us a little about yourself and your story

I’m 28 years-old and I’m a digital artist that can only use my mouth to paint, Illustrate etc.

Since 2011, I’ve been Quadriplegic, paralyzed from neck to feet. Due to my unfortunate condition, I have to rely on nurses for everyday daily simple tasks, from eating to moving.

I have a lot of time, and in 2013 or 14 my good friends Mike and Brian got me a Samsung Note 4. With the stylus in my mouth, I was able to navigate my phone, and thus discovered a way to paint. I haven’t stopped since then.

Henry Salas

What sparked your interest in art? Were you always an artist, or was it a passion that developed later on for you?

I would always be amazed by art, especially realism, but was never near close to average or even good – and that was with two working hands!

Passion was always there, but not being able to move or even scratch my own nose, that passion was hopeless in me… Until I got the Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 phone! I then regained that hope by trying, just doodling with my mouth.

What/who are your favorite subjects to draw?

Portraiture! Realism, hyperrealism, or a very great composition, something that shows expression or emotion. But mainly people because of the challenge it brings. And illustration or design here and there.

What is your favorite medium to work with and why?

Well, I wish I could work with oil, but I occasionally work with charcoal pencils.

My favorite medium is the one I can work with properly due to the limited movement on my neck, and that would be digital.

What tools and software do you use? Do you use any special brushes, or do you work with a standard drawing tablet pen and/or paint brush?

Photoshop is my main software I use for most paintings. Sometimes I use sketchbook pro or Artrage. And illustrator and Lightroom for the non-painting arts.

Yes, I have created my own very good special brush set ever since I understood the brush engine in photoshop. I work with a standard drawing tablet and right now I’m using the Huion hs610 for its shortcuts on the top of the tablet.

How would you describe your technique, especially when honing in on finer details?

My technique now that gives me the results and style I like is more of a traditional atelier technique, as if I was painting with oils. The same goes for details. I have let go of the smudge tool and use no more than two or three layers.

Who are some of your biggest artistic inspirations?

Almost any classical traditional realism artist. Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Carl Bloch, Andrew Tischler, Cesar Santos.

Who are some of your biggest personal inspirations?

Amazing artists that awe me with their artwork or craft and also mom and dad.

What keeps you motivated to work each day?

The ability and blessing that I am able to enjoy painting and that I’m very good at it. Also scrolling through social media gets me inspired and motivated by other people’s work.

How would you say being an artist has helped you grow as a person?

Patience. A lot of patience, especially since I paint by mouth only.

Henry Salas

I’ve also developed an eye to detail and the ability to find beauty in almost anything.

Do you find art to be a particularly healing or beneficial activity? If so, why?

Yes. Because of my situation, I’m almost always in discomfort and or pain.  Painting helps me get distracted and allow for time to fly by.

I even sometimes so engaged in a piece of art that I forget my situation.

Henry Salas

What advice would you give to aspiring artists who may feel stuck or worry their art isn’t improving fast enough?

Keep getting inspired and motivated by their inspiration or other pieces of art and just try a little of each. Don’t worry if your practice painting comes out pretty. Enjoy the process, enjoy the learning curves. Improve at your own pace.

Would you recommend art as a hobby or a career for other individuals who may have a similar condition and need a creative outlet to express themselves? If so, why?

It can be both and don’t be afraid to share your work on social media or submit for an art fair or competition. It isn’t only about being number one, but being able to get exposure. You never know when that one person who likes your work will commissions you and tell friends, etc.

Good quality hard work does pay off, whether it’s self-rewarding or complementary.

What’s next for you, Henry? Do you have any art projects or commissions that you’re currently working on and look forward to completing?

What’s next is keep getting the exposure I can, improving my workflow and of course my art. Also learn a little more about design and illustration.

Right now, I have three painting commissions I’m working on and creating a logo for a clothing line.

Do you have any additional comments or final thoughts to share?

Practice makes better and the practice makes masters, not instructors.

Henry Salas

I want to also give a big thank you for the love and support and for this interview that I hope will inspire and motivate others.

Be sure to follow Henry on Instagram to keep up with his breathtaking artwork!

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burgundy bug


A cynical optimist and mad scientist undercover, burgundy bug is the editor, graphic designer, webmaster, social media manager, and primary photographer for The Burgundy Zine. Entangled in a web of curiosity, burgundy bug’s work embodies a wide variety of topics including: neuroscience, psychology, ecology, biology, cannabis, reviews, fashion, entertainment, and politics. You can learn more about working with burgundy bug by visiting her portfolio website: burgundybug.com

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