For artist Jeff Echevarria, every stroke of his charcoal pencil is a gift.
But then again, so is every single day.
In October of 2011, the New Jersey-based artist and his wife, Bonnie, were involved in a severe car accident during a snowstorm. Bonnie broke several bones throughout her body. Jeff was paralyzed from the neck down.
“I was told I'd never walk again, let alone draw,” he said. “What followed next was months of blood, sweat, and tears. Tears of fear, joy, and of course, pain.”
After months of intense therapy, Jeff regained his ability to walk. And his second chance at life renewed a lifelong love of art he’d put on the back burner while focusing on his recovery.
“About two years into my rehabilitation I heard a whisper from God, then a gentle voice from Bonnie, then a loving shove from family and friends…So, flanked by my heavenly angels and a canopy of prayers, I picked up my pencil (well I dropped it more times than I could count) and put it to paper,” he said. “I learned to see things differently, which enabled me to draw differently and to feel things so much differently, to appreciate every aspect of my life anew.”
Jeff’s love of art first took hold when he was a child watching cartoons. He said they inspired him to start drawing his own imagined adventures, and he and a cousin would draw together for hours on end.
“I was forever getting sent to stand in the hall or sent to the principal's office for doodling instead of doing class work,” he said.