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Worth working back from accident

By Staff | Feb 24, 2009

About a month ago, readers likely feared the worst — a man in a rolling wheelchair had been struck on the Southside. The victim turned out to be artist/disabled advocate, Christopher Worth. But after a hospital stay, the unstoppable spirit of Worth has jaunted back to his creative craft.

To the sounds of Christmas music in the background, Worth has pulled his chair up to a Starbucks table at Pullman Square. He’s brought drawing paper and watercolors. Occasionally, verbalizing about a favorite holiday song (“rum pump um”), singing a partial verse, or telling a friend he will visit his family at the Greenbrier over the holidays, Worth holds his canvas with one hand and dabbles yellows, oranges and greens with his brushes.

On the tip of the table sets his brush cleaning glass, he has a napkin to dry his rendering, and with his eyes intently on the work, he skillfully picks up his next brush. Meanwhile, a woman walks up and says hello. Worth tells her that her friend is outside on a cell phone, but, hardly missing a beat, he continues painting.

Asked about the impromptu Starbucks Studio, Worth said he intends to create an entire series of water colored works completed at the Pullman Square coffee shop. “I don’t know what they think about it,” he said, as he confidently reached for another brush.

Actually, he enjoys a creative environment that has lots of “stimulation,” hence he does not like quiet places. For instance, he feels paintings he did in the hospital did not have his usual spark. Actually, he said inspiration typically comes from listening and observing.

With moderately long dark brown hair and glasses tipping his nose, you likely would not recognize that Worth has battled a developmental disability. Sitting in the motorized chair, his hands meticulously move in coordination with his eyes selecting the next brush and addition to the work in progress.

Looking over his creation, he lightly again mouths the Christmas Carol on the music system. Except for an awkward scratch of his nose, the artist scans his work occasionally half smiling as he rubs his hand against the canvas to tweak the work.

“So what’s going on with you,” he asks a nearby friend just as his cell phone interrupts. “I’ll try to make it,” he tells the person on the other end, “but I’ve got to get this done,” he sternly states, relenting a bit telling the calling, “but I’ll be there.”

Waxing into a bit of self criticism, he examines the painting’s progress telling his aide the words of a former professor: “A painting is a painting, a photograph is a photograph.” And, lacking hesitation, he dabs his brush in the water, refines another stroke, and speaks softly as he continues with the painting.

As he puts a brush in his mouth temporarily and scans a palm pilot with his head, the artist seems undisturbed by the sounds of coffee grinding, multiple conversations at other tables, the routine of the Pullman Shuttle pulling out from the street every twenty minutes. Shoppers come and shoppers go. For Chris Worth, it’s like the lights, sounds and people are adrift in another dimension.

While placing another color on the canvas, he asks the aide, “Do you want to come to a Create Huntington meeting with me?”

Yet even as he awaits an answer his hands and brushes continue their delicate maneuvers. You watch his creative process, but aside from occasional pauses to look over progress, he seldom misses a beat.

Worth may be a Starbucks painter for a while. He’s planning a show themed around the art he painted at the coffee shop.

Another friend walks up and looks at the work in progress. Worth tells him, “I’m doing several parts,” while the man on his way to work at Frankie’s points to an orange lime portion of the work. Worth asks him about the “black head,” which receives a positive response.

“You know my buddy,” the artist states nodding to introduce another friend.

“He looks very happy,” the onlooker states, adding, “this picture reminds me of my dad.”

With two viewers overlooking the painting, he answers another call. “I’m going to a Create Huntington meeting,” smiling and laughing at the caller on the other end.

Time nears for the meeting. Chris asks his aide to “start packing up.” This session of Starbucks artistry soon ends for the day.

“Chris, I’ll see you,” one of the on-lookers declares even as Worth continues with one hand holding his phone and the other a brush. The aide returns after washing brushes and utters a “wow” at the partly completed work.

Creativity can evolve from a routine or serendipity. Inspiration can come anywhere at any time. Even on a table at Starbucks.

Contact Tony at trutherford@graffitiwv.com