|Paralyzed Vet Mobilizes New Career in Painting
HOUSTON, April 11, 2006 – A Marine Gulf War veteran and National Guard member who was permanently paralyzed after suffering a crushed spinal cord in a 2001 accident has found a new life through painting – so much so that his original fear of having too much idle time has been transformed into a non-stop effort to meet new commissions.
Loyde Mcillwain, a Marine Corporal in the Gulf War and a 1985 Graduate of Hull-Daisetta High School, is being treated in the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, after his injury left him confined to a wheelchair. Mcillwain came upon his new career by chance while looking for something to help him pass the hours. Acting upon a suggestion by a hospital staffer Mcillwain decided to build and paint model ships and cars.
But he was given acrylic paints instead of model paint, so being a Marine he adapted and took up landscape painting instead. Mcillwain had no formal training but he regularly watched a painting show on the Public Broadcasting System and applied the lessons he learned there.
His first attempts had their share of setbacks. There was neither canvas nor other suitable materials to paint on so Mcillwain completed about 30 of his first projects on copier paper. Eventually, however, Mcillwain accumulated all he needed in supplies and he hasn’t looked back since.
“The sense of learning motivates me to paint,” Mcillwain said. “I have always enjoyed learning new things, and with painting I can see the progression in each painting.”
His new profession also eliminated the threat of having too much time on his hands. “I have a lot of free time, which would become stale if I did not have my paintings,” he says. “Stale time is not good for the mind.”
Mcillwain’s painting might have remained a form of personal therapy if it were not for his membership on a Marine internet website TogetherWeServed.com. He regularly posts comments on the site’s forums and one day included a picture of his latest painting to share with the other members.
The results were immediate and positive. Some members offered support and encouragement, others offered to buy his paintings, while others commissioned new paintings.
Cassandra Bieber, a former Marine Lance Corporal from Ohio who saw his posts on the web was impressed with his abilities and was one of the first to buy a painting from Mcillwain. “He has a gift and I want to support him in bringing his talent to light,” she said.
In addition to the using the web to let his friends know about his work, modern technology also allows Mcillwain’s customers to enjoy watching him ply his trade without making long distance trips.
Former Corporal Traci Keneda had a special commission for the new artist. Several months ago she took a motorcycle trip with a friend who was scheduled to deploy to Iraq. Her friend was selling his motorcycle after that last scenic trip through the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma, Keneda said, so “it was a bittersweet day.”
She took numerous photos of her journey, including one showing an old style windmill in the foreground with a row of modern windmills in a row on the horizon. To Keneda the photo took on a powerful presence, “The windmill of yesterday, like our Marines of yesterday – having faced the storms of years gone by, but still there with that powerful presence – and those of today, standing at attention in the background, paying respect.”
She sent a copy to Mcillwain and he produced a painting from it titled Wind. As with Bieber, Keneda was able to watch on a web cam as Mcillwain turned a photo into a painting. In addition to providing her with a lasting memento of an important day in her life, Keneda says Mcillwain is representative of the painting’s theme.
“When Loyde first showed me his paintings, I was so surprised. I thought, ‘Here we have a seasoned veteran of the Armed Forces, a brother Marine who even through the trials and tribulations has not lost touch with the peace, beauty and simplicity of life.’”
In addition to his adeptness with paintbrush and canvas Mcillwain also is skilled at internet technology and to properly showcase his work has created a website http://www.macsart.tk/ . In a recent development, he also has contracted with a firm to produce reproductions of his work.
But while those initiatives will help him manage the daily workload his painting has brought him, Mcillwain is philosophical about painting. The greatest satisfaction he achieves is through “the accomplishment of creating something that can be enjoyed for generations to come. Long after I am gone my paintings will still be here.”
Keneda also believes Mcillwain is a living example of the military mindset often expressed by one of her former commanders – “Relentless Perseverance.”
“Loyde is a picture perfect example of someone who lives by this quote.”