Life on Canvas

At age 7, Jackie Foster’s life changed but did not derail the dreams she had for her career.

By Jennifer Hoydicz

Jackie Foster developed a love for art at an early age and dabbled in drawing and painting as a young child. At the age of 7 it seemed this interest would fade when she lost the four fingers on her left hand in an accident.

When asked to recall the events of that day, she remembers them vividly though she was just a child. While helping her dad, who was working with a planing saw in his workshop, she reached up to signal in the direction of the saw and her hand was caught in the back of the machine.

Impact on an artist

All images reprinted with permission of Jackie Foster.

“I remember the whole thing. I remember being in the hospital in the emergency room,” Foster said. “I actually didn’t feel the pain that you’d think I felt for such an accident. I guess you have a pain gate that shuts off mercifully for you in a situation like that because you would think it would have been unbearable and it wasn’t.”

Reflecting on how this initially impacted her life she recalls the concerns of a child who was praised for and took pride in her penmanship.

“I was a lefty so … I had to learn to write all over again. I had to learn how to become a righty,” Foster told O&P Business News adding that being so young probably helped her to adjust faster. “I think kids are so resilient and able to adapt and adjust and the school was very supportive of me.”

Like writing, Foster also needed to adjust to drawing and painting with her right hand.

“I was quite awkward trying to shift to a righty so I am sure it did impact me for a long time,” Foster said. “I wasn’t able to control a brush or pastels or pencil even to draw something.”

Disappointed with the outcomes of her painting attempts, Foster retired her canvas, brushes and paints and explored drawing and photography as she grew older.

Painting again

Years passed before Foster decided to return to painting and in 2005.

Jackie Foster

“I hadn’t painted in quite some time and I guess I … missed it and I thought that I had something unique and perhaps could do something that would be unusual that not too many other people can do,” Foster said.

She decided that instead of using traditional tools to craft her art, she would use her body, more specifically; her residual fingers which she calls “nubbins.”

Without any idea if this new technique could work or how the paintings would turn out, Foster went to her local art store to make a small first investment in her new project.

“I bought a few different colors and some canvas and came home and started experimenting,” Foster said. “I was excited and I was absolutely thrilled with what I was able to do.”

Given her newfound success, Foster revisited the art store for more supplies and to expand her selection of colors.

“I just started diving in and couldn’t get enough of it for awhile,” she said.

In terms of personal achievement, Foster was overjoyed with her new masterpieces, as were the people closest to her. Sharing them with the rest of the world to receive feedback, however, was a scary prospect.

“I decided after I had a little stockpile to create a Web site and share it with strangers to see what their reaction was,” Foster said. “The people around me were so supportive and I wanted to see what strangers would think so I put it out there.”

She could not have scripted a better response. Shortly after launching her Web site, she was selling her work.

“People have been really positive. I was amazed at all of the support and encouragement and positive things that people have said,” Foster said. “It felt really good.”


Jackie Foster's painting
Jackie Foster created the painting “Strength” with her innovative technique.

In addition to the display of artwork available on her Web site, a selection of her artwork is also available for viewing at the Middleborough Art Gallery in Middleborough, Mass. owned by Sgt. Peter Damon. Damon also is an amputee who lost both of his arms while serving in Iraq.

“I read an article about Sgt. Peter Damon in the newspaper and that he was going to be opening up an art gallery and I contacted him right away,” Foster explained. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who serve in the forces. I just wanted to get more involved and meet him and possibly become part of his business.”

In an effort to give back and help support a cause she believes in, Foster donates 50% of gallery sale proceeds to Homes for Our Troops. Homes for Our Troops builds adapted houses for returning military veterans. The first home they built was for Damon.

“It’s a wonderful thing that they do so I support it in appreciation of what they’ve done for Peter Damon and other [service members] in need,” she said.

There is another cause close to Foster’s heart to which she donates 50% of Web site proceeds – animals. The recipients of her donations are Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and the Rolling Dog Ranch.

“They are two wonderful places,” Foster said. “The Rolling Dog Ranch [and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary] caters to disabled animals that would otherwise be destroyed. A lot of their animals are blind or missing limbs or have neurological disorders and all kinds of issues … They are happy and just want to live and have a good life.”

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Jennifer Hoydicz is the managing editor of O&P Business News.

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