A quadriplegic 35-year-old man paints a line on a blank canvas, controlling the brush with his mouth.
He is going to paint the Grand Canyon.
While expressing himself expertly his mind flashes back to 1 January 2005, when he was sitting on a rock in Paternoster.
He paints another line while he sees himself standing up on the rock and diving into the dark blue water below.
Heiron Joseph from Eric Miles Cheshire Home blinks quickly to get the recurring image out of his head.
There was an unseen sandbank beneath the water and when he dove into it he broke the c4 and c5 vertebrae in his neck.
“The moment I plunged into the water I just experienced a numbness, which was almost like getting cramps, because the water is really cold along the West Coast,” he remembers.
Someone rescued him that fateful day, but he was already in a coma.
When a dazed Heiron woke up in hospital he was told he would be paralysed from the neck down for the rest of his life.
He recalls that moment the doctor shared the tragic news all too well.
“But I can’t even begin to explain how I felt,” he tells TygerBurger.
“I simply couldn’t comprehend never walking again. I wanted the ventilator to stop right there and then.”
In hindsight, Heiron believes the accident was a blessing.
“If I take stock of the last eight years of my life compared to the 27 years during which I was able bodied, I realize that my accident was a blessing in disguise. I have achieved more, given back more and become more appreciative of life. I was a different person then… Now I know I’m here for a purpose. My journey, which is to spread the message that there is life beyond tragedy, has just begun,” says Heiron determinedly.
His journey is bursting with oil colours depicting landscapes, and his story is delivered to distant parts of the world such as Germany, Portugal and the United Kingdom.
Heiron has sold many paintings since he took on art as a hobby, and he has sold to people all over the world.
It comes as no surprise that this man from Milnerton is inspiring others while he journeys through life.
“It took me quite a while to master the brush while holding it in my mouth. Control is obviously a difficult thing to achieve, but serious concentration does the trick.”
Painting the Grand Canyon has taken him the better part of a month, spending three to four days a week painting. He knows he should take a break when he starts feeling pins and needles in his arms and legs, caused by the strain on his neck vertebrae.
But the shape of the Grand Canyon is beginning to take form on the canvas – this will be his greatest painting to date.
Every day Heiron seizes is gift.
That day in Paternoster could have been his last were it not for someone who saw him dive in and never come up.
If he let his misery get the better of him he would never even have left the hospital.
Instead, he is a shining light of encouragement.
Heiron’s dream is to paint the seven wonders of the world on one canvas, something he says would be a message of hope.
Heiron has just recently sold his fourth painting and has another client from Australia lined up.


If the quadriplegic artist who lives at Eric Miles Cheshire Home had to paint his current situation he will only require one colour – black.
Black is his mood, black is his future, black is his disposition.
Heiron Joseph (35) is one of the patients at the special needs home who have been notified that they will have to find sponsors in order to continue their stay there.
TygerBurger reported on this three weeks ago in the article entitled “Disabled to be evicted from home”.
For Heiron, the date of eviction has apparently been moved on by a month after several sponsors came forward.
He now has enough funds to extend his stay there till the end of October, so the pressure to find sponsors has been lifted ever so slightly.
TygerBurger also wrote about Heiron in May this year in the article “Tragedy beaten by art”.
Now there is a very real possibility that art might be beaten by tragedy.
“I feel extremely stressed and depressed,” says Heiron.
He sells his art, which he paints by gripping a brush in his mouth, for people from all over the world, but according to him the money he makes is not enough to safeguard his future at the home.
“Paint alone is very expensive… I don’t know,” he continues.
“It seems as if I continuously have to overcome obstacles.”
In 2005 Heiron dove into a sandbank and broke the c4 and c5 vertebrae in his neck.
It left him wholly dependent on special care for the rest of his life.
“Not only do I need the care at Eric Miles, I also have made so many friends here – in Milnerton and in Table View,” he says.
Staying at the home in Sanddrift is his primary goal, and he is reaching out one final time to TygerBurger’s readers.
He is very thankful to the few who have come forward and sponsored him on a monthly basis to ensure his continued stay at the home, but he is still approximately R3 000 short.
The deadline might have been postponed for now, but Heiron’s cry for help has never been stronger.