Joshua Englehaupt was born April 3, 1980. Birth trauma resulted in Joshua being diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. He attended Easter Seal until the age of seven at which time testing became available that gave a more accurate assessment of his IQ. His diagnosis was updated to multi-physically disabled with normal intelligence. As a result of this testing, Josh was able to leave Easter Seals and attend public schools.
Josh enjoyed attending public school. However, being bussed close to 100 miles per day took it’s toll on both Josh and his family. It was a brutal schedule for a young man already dealing with physical disabilities. His sleep and eating patterns were disrupted and he ended up at the end of each school year with weight loss and exhaustion that took him the entire summer to recuperate. Five years later, the decision was made to withdraw him from the school system and teach him at home.
As his mother and primary caregiver, the job of home schooling fell on me. In some ways, this was a good decision and, in some ways, it was very difficult. I’m not a trained teacher and found it difficult to incorporate all the subjects that he would have gotten from the public school. I was given no guidelines to follow.
In other ways, home schooling was a very good decision. I knew Josh better than anyone. We communicated in ways people outside the family couldn’t. I also never underestimated him. I expected a lot from him and he never let me down. Josh worked harder for me because I expected him to.
In one area Josh totally surprised me. I was taking a watercolor art course, when Josh let me know that he wanted to paint too. Without thinking, I gave him paper and paints and let him finger paint. This lasted about three pictures. Josh got angry. He kicked his foot and kept looking at the paintbrush in my hand. He wanted to paint with a brush.
I did what I always do when Josh wants to do something. I figured out a way for him to do it. His grip was poor. I’d have to curl his fingers around the brush and help him hang onto it. This wasn’t what Josh wanted so I started to think of ways to help him. I mentioned to my husband one evening, “If only paintbrushes came with handles like screwdrivers.”
He gave me a look, got up from his chair and disappeared into the garage. He came back with a couple of screwdriver handles with brushes inserted. These were the first brushes that Josh used. The handles were big enough that he could get a grip on them.
We chose flowers to work on because flowers can be painted in a loose style and still look like a flower. His fine motor skills were non-existent, and still are, but the watercolor medium works for him. The water disperses the pigment and he can do a lot with broad strokes and Kleenex to lift the paint when it spreads into areas he doesn’t want painted.
Josh isn’t an independent painter. He needs my help in getting his painting ready. I load and clean brushes for him. I place the brush in his hand and support his elbow. The brush strokes are his. The composition and colors are his. He has a far better sense of color than I do. We use a big color chart to help him decide on colors and to communicate to me what he wants.
He is expanding his subject matter. His compositions are becoming more intricate. He still lacks fine motor skills but his output and production is smoother. His purpose is strong and I find his ambition and passion inspiring.
The second member of OurHome Studio is Carol Englehaupt.
Josh is the inspiration and passion, I think of myself as the workhorse. Josh comes up with the ideas and I try to make them work. This sometimes involves thinking outside the box.
I consider myself a portrait artist. I prefer to paint people. That said, most of my commission work has been dogs. This limits my ability to help Josh at shows. Portraits are a personal thing and the off the rack sales for them is slow.
Josh is a slow painter and our show opportunities are growing. That meant I needed to produce work that has a more universal appeal than portraits.
I don’t have much talent for landscapes and to compare my flowers with Josh’s is just embarrassing. For me. He far exceeds my ability in that area.
I sat down one day and put some deep thought into what I could offer. A comment I overheard at an art show reminded me of a childhood game I played when I was four. The comment? I overheard a woman say she enjoyed the Youth Art Show more than the adult show because the youth hadn’t learned the rules. They painted because they loved to and created what came to them regardless of whether it was technically ‘good’ art or not. They created from the heart, the passion hadn’t been taught out of them.
The passion, the creativity. Where does it come from? My mother’s brother, Uncle Cotton, taught us a game. The rules were simple. The first child closes their eyes and draws 3 lines. Any 3 lines placed anywhere. The second child in line looks at those 3 lines and finds a picture to draw. I loved this game. It challenged me and pushed me to see pictures inside.
I transferred the ideas of this game to paint. I would choose 3 colors. Drop those colors onto wet paper and let the paints swirl and move as they chose. Once dry, I’d stand the paper up and stare at it. If nothing appeared, I’d rotate the picture and stare some more. At some point, my eyes would recognize something. Slowly, stroke by stroke, I coax the painting out.
The most surprising thing to me is what comes with the painting. These Flights of Fancy come with self-awareness. Poems appear, a form of writing that I was never drawn to before these paintings appeared. Each of the Flights opens up self-awareness in me, and I feel like these paintings are a gift to myself.
The energy that happens with this creative process is the most amazing thing. It excites me, gives me joy, draws me into the passion of art. It helps me look at other artwork with new eyes and connects me to the art on a new level.
Josh and I are just beginning this artistic journey. I have no idea where the path will lead. I only know we are enjoying every step of the journey.