The Mystery of Christopher Kuster, the Unique Artist Who Paints by Teeth

unique artist

He calls himself Motor Mouth and makes amazing car art with a paintbrush held in his teeth. But where is this unique artist?

There is a uniqueness to every artist. It’s more apparent with some than with others. One unique artist took a tragic accident and turned it into a life-changing event. Following a swimming accident in 1992, a then-21-year-old Christopher Kuster was paralyzed from the chest down with no feeling in his hands, fingers or wrists. Kuster had enjoyed an outdoor lifestyle on the west Florida coast while working in automotive bodywork. Confined to a wheelchair, he needed to find a way to capture the tranquility of his home and his love for cars. While in recovery, he taught himself to paint with his teeth and has since adopted the nickname Motor Mouth. He places the brush in his mouth, and what happens is pure artistic magic you have to see to believe — and you can, thanks to YouTube!

I could not pass up an opportunity to speak with Kuster about his watercolor and oil paintings. What I presumed would be an easy task turned out to be quite an adventure. Kuster, it seems, does not want to be found (or does he?).

unique artist- teeth painterCourtesy of Michael Brown

Four Weeks to Deadline: Find Unique Artist Christopher Kuster

It was very easy to find Kuster’s work online. A Pinterest board even exists that is dedicated to some of his work. My story appeared to be off to a great start, since a quick Google search of paint by teeth brings up Kuster’s website (www.paintbyteeth.com). There was only one problem: the website was no longer functioning. That’s okay. On to the next possibility — social media. Everyone is on it, and there’s bound to be a Facebook page dedicated to this unique artist. There wasn’t exactly, but I did find his personal page and quickly bookmarked it to return to later in order to make contact. I would later realize that I should have contacted him that same day (add that to the list of lessons learned as a writer).

While on a separate Facebook page that details Kuster’s work — Fans of Volkswagon — I had the pleasure of admiring his car-focused paintings. His love of Volkswagen vehicles is quite apparent. I especially like the red VW Bus with black details that appears to be flying.

unique artistBy Christopher Kuster

Another VW bus painting, with its palm trees blowing in the wind and surfboard, reminds me of home, Southern California. Given Kuster’s heritage, I’m assuming he took inspiration for this painting from Florida.

unique artistA VW Bus that’s ready for the surf and sand. By Christopher Kuster.

Then there are what I refer to as his “Sesame Street gone mad” drawings. That’s right, Kuster makes drawings that feature a giant green monster who looks like the long-lost cousin of Oscar the Grouch. Oscar just happens to be my favorite Muppet, so Kuster scored bonus points with me.

unique artist- teeth painterA monster at the wheel. By Christopher Kuster.

Three Weeks to Deadline: Time to Contact Kuster

At three weeks to deadline it was time to make contact with Kuster. I pulled up the link I’d saved one week before, and to my great surprise…I got an error message from Facebook that the page had been removed.

“Well, that’s peculiar. In one week his Facebook page has disappeared, and his website is still not functioning,” I thought. I began to get a bit worried because I wanted nothing more than to be able to speak with Kuster personally to really learn about how he creates his magnificent artwork.

I also could not fathom why his online presence was spontaneously disappearing the more I looked for him. Coincidence or conspiracy? I may never know.

I brainstormed how to go about finding Kuster. I even called a number I found in an online phone book (feeling like a stalker) but it was disconnected. Now that my online leads had disappeared, I turned my attention to learning more about this unique artist.

During an interview with The Block, Kuster explained that before the accident he did not draw or paint, that one passion led to another. “I just kind of sketched in my math book. I never imagined I’d be where I am today…. I learned custom painting, automotive bodywork, heavy collision, unibody alignment, machining and the likes — that was my passion — creating something custom and unique.” His humility as an artist is evident as he says, “I still don’t want to call myself a real artist. I doodle and people like it.”

Kuster’s first doodle sold for $5. His work now sells worldwide. Some of the profits go to support charities such as the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

unique artist- Kuster DoodleA Kuster doodle

As for discovering his unique paint-by-teeth talent, Kuster has his family to thank.

“It all started with my sister-in-law and wife — they saw me using a pencil to do some doodling to pass the time,” he says. “So they bought me paint and brushes. It sort of just took off from there. I’ve had no formal training.

“I guess you could say it’s just natural talent.”

Kuster is known for his CarToons, a collection that began with him painting cars for friends. They gained popularity after he posted pictures of the paintings to his Facebook page (yes, the one that has disappeared!).

unique artist- Kuster CarToonA Kuster CarToon

“I just paint in my garage studio with the music blasting. I’m living the dream,” he says.

Kuster’s paint-by-teeth artistic gift also helps him escape his limitations.

“Painting gives me a release from my physical bonds. I become so engrossed in the picture that I no longer feel as if I am in a wheelchair. I am free,” he told VolksAmerica.

Two Weeks to Deadline: I Find My Potential Saving Grace

I had nearly given up on finding a way to contact Kuster when I took to the internet again. My first inclination, as morbid as it sounds, was to search for his obituary. That search came up empty, fortunately. After some time and patience, I finally found an organization that could lead me to this unique artist that I now refer to as the Motor Mouth Phantom. Kuster is a member of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA). He has a profile on the organization’s website, and while it does not provide contact information, that doesn’t mean they don’t have it on file, right? I contacted the MFPA and waited with great anticipation for a reply.

In the meantime, I watched a short documentary on Kuster made by his childhood friend Michael Brown.

I also admired the other types of paintings he does, revolving around nature.

unique artist blue heronGreat Blue Heron and Purple Iris. By Christopher Kuster.

One Day to Deadline: The Motor Mouth Phantom Remains a Mystery

After all my efforts, I never got to speak with Kuster. It’s a disappointment, but thanks to the long life of material on the internet, I managed to learn as much as possible about this unique artist and how he is an inspiration.

“I want people to know there’s life after disability,” Kuster told The Block. “I’m broken, not dead.” end

Which unique artist inspires you?

 

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