When a rare illness struck Rick Johnston, leaving him with stroke-like symptoms that included difficulty walking and speaking, he couldn’t imagine that anything positive would come of it.
“My brain essentially shut off,” Johnston told People. “Along the way, my speech was taken from me and my ability to walk was taken. I have been to every major medical facility and it’s still an anomaly as to what happened. My brain is telling my body that I’ve had a stroke. The right side of my body is completely numb.”
However, the 49-year-old Indiana father found a silver lining when his struggles led him to discover his love of painting. His speech pathologist, Shelly Hunt, suggested Johnson try painting to help exercise his brain in the wake of his communication difficulties, and he was very resistant to the idea at first.
“I told her she was silly,” Johnston recalled. “My exact words were, ‘You’re crazy. I can’t paint.’ I’m not an artist by any stretch.”
When Johnston finally came around and picked up a paintbrush, though, he was surprised by his own ability and interest. What’s more, he found that painting was therapeutic.
“I did it almost out of spite to show Shelly that she was silly,” he said. “But I started going through multiple index cards and I couldn’t stop painting. I was driven. Along the way, it started to take off a lot of the tension and the anxiety I had.”
Here he is at the canvas:
It turns out Johnston is prolific in his painting. Here’s one he painted of a horse, which he posted with the caption, “A horse of a different color:
Johnston’s 21-year-old daughter, Lauren, created a Facebook page, The Bearded Painter, to show off her dad’s work, and his paintings can be purchased there upon request. Johnston donates the money he makes off his paintings to nonprofits he cares about.
“To see where it’s blossomed to the Bearded Painter, it’s amazing,” Lauren told WTHR. “It’s a miracle. It’s indescribable. When dad sets his mind on something, he goes 100 percent.”