Talented artist had to learn from scratch again after a horrific injury

A gifted Cardiff-born artist taught himself how to re-draw and paint from scratch with his left hand after a horrific injury that caused severe damage to his right hand.

Rivina’s Kevin Strong suffered a 12,000-volt shock to the back of his neck while working on an overhead cable.

He became so ill that his family was told that he was unlikely to recover overnight.

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Kevin’s passion for art began 20 years before the event that made him cling to life. He said: “I started going to classes because my daughter was doing O-level art. She wanted to go to one of the major courses but the minors had to be accompanied by an adult.

“They asked me if I wanted to go too, so I did a little touch up and from there it went from strength to strength.”

In August 2014, Kevin, who worked in telecommunications, was 36 feet in the air when he suffered an electric shock. The shock caused severe damage and destroyed most of the skin on his right hand.

Kevin said: “Lucky for me it was traveling up my shoulders and down instead of going directly onto my body because it had enough power to hit me.”

Kevin was taken to the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend before being transferred to Morriston Hospital in Swansea.

When it became clear that he would survive, Kevin was faced with the difficult decision of keeping his hand or cutting it off.

Kevin said: “The surgeon said I would never be able to use the arm again and it was a serious consideration. Me and my family had to decide whether I would amputate my hand or whether we kept it and made it up.” Tried cosmetic surgery to look more attractive.”

Surgeons at Morriston Hospital reconstructed Kevin’s right hand by surgically attaching it to his abdomen to restore blood flow and to cauterize the skin.

Kevin said: “The surgeons were brilliant at recreating it. It’s worth having. It’s constantly painful, but I’d rather live with it than not have my arm.

“My biggest concern was learning how to write. All my tendons and ligaments just melted together and my hand would never function. I had no feeling in my arm.

“I remember two or three years after the accident I was cutting some meat and passed my finger through the knife and didn’t even know it – the accident had ruined everything.

“It was worrisome not only to learn that I would not have a normal functional hand, but I was concerned about the injuries that I might have received if I did not have sensation in my hand.”

Kevin’s hand is now rebuilt

While Kevin underwent 35 operations to reconstruct his hand, he was also teaching himself how to write, paint, and draw with his left hand.

He said: “I would be in the hospital to write my ABCs and numbers from one to 10. I thought that until I had learned to write the alphabet and numbers, there were no words or shapes that I could write. I Practiced it day by day.

“I mastered writing in about three or four months. I have to take longer because it is difficult when you have been writing with one hand for 40 to 50 years and then suddenly you have to start using your other hand. It was either that or I can’t write at all.

“I had a lot of friends at the South Wales Art Society who would come to visit and bring paints and brushes. Everything was going on, the last thing I wanted to do was paint but I eventually realized they were right.

“Years ago before the accident I used to work all day and then come home and go to my studio and paint to relax.

“I would look at things that day and think: ‘Oh, I want to paint this’ and I would love the thrill of making something recognizable.

“My family was saying I had to get out of this depression. Before the accident I was active and did a lot of gardening and fishing. When I found out I couldn’t do any of them I really Went down the spiral and just swung around in the bed. It’s really quite a change.

“So I started sketching and painting to elevate myself. It’s frustrating because your brain is telling you you can do it but your arm isn’t trained. I try to paint lines and mix colors.” But my left hand wasn’t doing any of that.”

It took a year for Kevin to “Everything Click in to Place” and after years of practice he was able to paint to an exhibition standard.

Kevin said: “Painting not only took me out of depression but it helped me recover.

“A lot of people have said that I’m better at painting with my left hand – but maybe that’s because I have more free time.

“My favorite in winter and my most popular is Roth Park. I also love Cardiff Castle across from Bute Park.”

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Kevin’s ‘Winter Day Terra Nova Roth Park’

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Some prints of the painting are done by Kevin with his left hand.

“In Cardiff we are so lucky to have such nice views, parks and buildings. I even have a painting of Cardiff Bay before they revived it. There were always seagulls out of the mud flats. It became really popular because every Someone wanted a painting of what the bay looked like.

“The person who bought the painting from me didn’t even realize there was a herd of seagulls on the river until they were polishing the painting years later.

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Kevin’s painting of old Cardiff Bay: ‘People like us, Cardiff Bay’

“It takes hours to paint the details but that’s what separates painting from a good job and a bad job. You need that patience to see and paint the details which is what I always try to do.”

Kevin’s art is on display at the Pettigrave Tea Rooms in Bute Park and the Terra Nova Café in Roth Park.

You can also see his art on his website, where he experiments with everything from watercolor to acrylic and ink, Here.

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