BOISE -- Becoming an artist takes years of hard work and mastering the craft.
Now, imagine being a painter without using your arms, or your hands.
Artist Hernan Reyes doesn't use his hands to paint, because he can't. He's paralyzed from the neck down, and in a wheelchair. This Caldwell man uses his mouth to make masterpieces!
There was a recent art show at the Elks Rehab Hospital in Boise that showcased the incredible and inspirational artwork of former patients after life changing injury. Hernan was one of them.
"A lot of our patients have had a really tragic event happen. It's our job to help them figure out a new version of themselves. Our mission here is to help people live life to it's fullest," said Kristi Pardue, who works at Elks Rehab Hospital.
Hernan is doing just that. Through his art.
"It's humbling -- I do it because it's something I can do," Reyes explains.
It's been almost 20 years since he was paralyzed, but Reyes remembers his accident like it was yesterday. "I was driving home from work, fell asleep at the wheel, crashed a jeep," Reyes said. "I was left a quadriplegic."
Shortly after the accident, Hernan's therapist at the Elks hospital built him an painting easel. Since he couldn't use his hands, he used his mouth to try to create art. "It was first for mental health, to be productive," Reyes said. "Now it's a great tool. I use it to talk to people and volunteer here at the hospital. It's been a nice surprise, a nice blessing."
Hernan paints incredible works of art. Natural landscapes are his favorite.
"I used to love to be in the mountains," Reyes said. "Often when I paint, I imagine being out there. It's kind of an escape."
For Hernan, art is a lot more than just putting his paintbrush to paper. "It's helped me heal, and it's helped others heal when they see what's possible," Reyes said.
He's an inspiration to everyone who meets him, and his message is clear -- not to give up. His incredible attitude is what keeps him so positive. "I'm thankful to be here. I have a wonderful family, wonderful kids. I'm very fortunate," Reyes says.
Eight artists and former patients of Elks Rehab Hospital displayed artwork at the show. They all say art has helped them heal, too.
If you want to nominate a Seven's Hero like Hernan Reyes, e-mail Maggie O'Mara and let her know about it.