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Michael Davenport, Amazing Mouth Artist

Michael Davenport uses his mouth to create his masterpieces.

Michael Davenport uses his mouth to create his masterpieces.

The artist places a black Sharpie between his lips, leans his torso forward and nods his head to make careful, precise strokes on the canvas. It doesn't take long before the strokes join together to form a very recognizable shape. That's Uga he's drawing, mascot of the Georgia Bulldogs.There's a red football helmet by Uga's side and in the background, a painstaking rendering of the University of Georgia's famed black iron arch.

It's a drawing any Bulldog fan would be proud to hang, but the wow factor is that it's all been done by mouth. Davenport, who had his hands and most of his arms amputated as a teenager, knows his special skill attracts gawkers. In fact, he's counting on it. That's how he makes his living.This day he has set up his easel at a busy intersection in Athens, Ga.

Passersby appear stunned, amazed. One lady rolls down her window. "That is awesome," she yells. "You are extremely talented." Another woman gives him a bookmark telling him God loves him. Davenport already knows that.

"I wouldn't be able to do what I do without the Lord," he says.

What does Davenport think about people's reactions when they see him working? "I feel like they look at it the way God wants them to see it," he says. "There's hope there, you know. I haven't given up. I haven't just laid on my tail and waited on a government check."

Davenport won't give up. He says it again and again. There's always a chance life will get better. He knows from experience. Davenport says he was a bitter addict until God changed his attitude and helped him see the beauty in life.

Occasionally he struggles to hold onto objects, dropping pen caps, asking for help securing something in a jean pocket at his knee. He's learned to talk while holding the Sharpie in his mouth.

"Most people think it's hard. I look at it as just surviving. God gave me talent. I'm going to do it," he says.

"I don't let things upset me. I figure God don't make mistakes," Davenport says. Davenport named this drawing "Baby Blue-Eyed Russ" after the University of Georgia mascot Uga IX.

"I don't let things upset me. I figure God don't make mistakes," Davenport says. Davenport named this drawing "Baby Blue-Eyed Russ" after the University of Georgia mascot Uga IX.

It's supposed to get up into the 50s today but the wind is biting, more than once knocking over his canvas. Davenport says he usually starts to work at around 11 a.m. Today he's still going shortly before 6 p.m., nearly seven hours after he started, with plans to continue working into the night, drawing for fans at a baseball game.

He doesn't mind the cold as much as other people, he says. He's pretty much numb from the chest down due to the burn injuries he suffered when he was a teenager. With visions of swinging like Spiderman, a 13-year-old Davenport was attempting to throw a rope with a copper wire inside it over a tree limb, but missed and hit a live power line.

"All I knew was something had a hold of me and I couldn't let it go," he says.

Davenport was told by witnesses that some of his fingers and toes fell off as he was being loaded onto a stretcher. But that's not what he remembers. In what he describes as an "out of body experience," Davenport says he was transported to a beautiful place of peace and without pain, where he felt God's presence. God told him he was OK and that it wasn't his time to die, he says. A month later he woke up in the hospital and learned his hands, his left arm and his right forearm had been amputated.

Davenport asked "Why me?" and hid in homeroom to eat his lunch.

"I didn't want to accept I had no hands. When I'd see my reflection in the mirror, it hurt. When people would look at me, it hurt. When my clothes didn't fit right, it hurt."

Davenport learned to write his name with his mouth. Invited to attend UGA football practices by legendary Coach Vince Dooley, Davenport began practicing drawing the college mascot.

Before the accident, "I couldn't draw a stick figure," Davenport says.

But when he put a pen in his mouth, he discovered a talent. Davenport began drawing sketches on bar napkins for patrons in downtown Athens before graduating to Sharpies, paint markers and canvases. It takes him less than an hour to do most of his drawings, and he charges between $100 and $175 per piece.

He's become known around town and is the subject of an occasional news story. He is hoping to get more exposure. A friend is writing a book about his life, and Davenport is hoping to score an appearance on comedian Steve Harvey's talk show.

Davenport with the finished product. He typically asks customers to apply a glossy coat to the canvas to preserve the drawing.

Davenport with the finished product. He typically asks customers to apply a glossy coat to the canvas to preserve the drawing.

Davenport is currently living in a budget motel and just learned he may lose his elbow due to infection. But he keeps hoping for a better tomorrow. He says he has put the past behind him, a past that includes addiction to drugs and alcohol, substances that Davenport used to help him feel accepted.

He claims God saved his life twice: Once from death by electrocution and once from the disease of addiction. He realized he had to let go of the addiction when it started affecting his physical and mental health, as well as his art.

"I thank God for opening my eyes," he says.

"He's forgiven me. I've got to forgive myself. That's what most people lack is forgiving themselves. What's past is past," he says.

A woman stops to ask if Davenport only draws bulldogs. No, he says. He can also do family portraits, landmarks, such as Athens' historic Georgia Theatre, and other school mascots. He's got one with Uga, rival mascot Albert the Florida Gator and mascots from other football teams gambling, most likely on who will claim victory in the next game.

Dooley, who long ago encouraged Davenport, "Don't ever stop doing what you're doing," owns several of his drawings, as does current UGA Coach Mark Richt.

Today, Davenport's second piece is again Uga, this time sporting shades and lounging in front of Sandford Stadium. With delicate strokes, he slowly and carefully fills the stands with fans. Is he really taking the time to draw in people in all of those seats? Driving by almost four hours later, he's still at it. No, Michael Davenport doesn't give up.

"Always put Christ first and you can do anything. Always have hope things will be better. You can either lay there and accept things as is or make a change, make them better," he says.

If you are in Athens, Ga., be on the lookout for Michael. He spends most of his time in downtown Athens as well as at the corner of Timothy Road and Atlanta Highway, and the Target shopping center off Atlanta Highway. He also accepts donations to purchase art supplies.

Watch Michael Davenport inspire children - Video courtesy of Daniel Peiken. Visit Peiken's website at www.AthensRockShow.com. Email: dpeiken@hotmail.com

Comments

ButlerOlsonPubl on August 24, 2015:

Great job Crystal!! This is really well-done. Michael is super-talented.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on July 11, 2015:

Just amazing! What an inspiring article.

poetryman6969 on January 28, 2015:

It's certainly a blessing to see this man thrive.

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on October 02, 2014:

Thanks for reading stuff4kids! He is truly an inspiration.

Amanda Littlejohn on September 29, 2014:

That's my inspiration fix for the day! Davenport's story is a heartening and inspiring one indeed - and humbling, too.

Thank you so much for sharing this. :)

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on April 01, 2014:

Thank you Thelma, for reading and for the share. Michael is a wonderful inspiration to us all.

Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on March 29, 2014:

This talented man amazes me Crystal. He encourage us to be positive in life and that nothing is impossible. Kudos to this man and to this inspiring and great hub. Thank you. Voted up and shared in fb.

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on March 27, 2014:

Yes Victoria, Michael has accomplished what seems impossible. I think the most amazing part of this story is his positive attitude. Thanks for reading!

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on March 26, 2014:

What an amazing story! Seems impossible, doesn't it? Thanks for sharing this. It's so inspiring.

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on March 26, 2014:

Thank you prasetio30!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on March 25, 2014:

I love art and I found very talented person here. God has blessed him with this talent. This is a gift to be thankful for. I really appreciate his effort to make a beautiful painting and not all people can do this job. Thanks for sharing about Michael Davenport. I hope this hub inspiring many people...amen. Voted up!

Prasetio

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on March 19, 2014:

Thanks chitrangada sharan.

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on March 19, 2014:

Thank you Alicia. I hope this article will expand his spotlight.

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on March 19, 2014:

Thanks for reading, teaches. I agree with you, he is a lesson in perseverance.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 18, 2014:

Amazing artist and wonderful hub!

Very nice gesture on your part to showcase his talent. Thanks for sharing!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 18, 2014:

This is an interesting and very inspiring hub, Crystal. Michael Davenport is an amazing person and artist. Your hub is a wonderful way to publicize his efforts.

Dianna Mendez on March 18, 2014:

This man is truly amazing. He is proof that you can do anything if you just set your mind to it.

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on March 18, 2014:

Wow, Danida, Bauby has an amazing story as well. How can anyone have that level of persistence and patience? I have thought of Michael several times when I have felt like throwing a pity party. Thank you for reading!

Danida from London on March 18, 2014:

Wow, this guy's very inspiring! He reminds me of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a man who suffered from locked in syndrome and managed to write a book on his experiences with the use of only one eye. He would blink with his left eye, the only thing he could move, as a nurse pointed to different letters on the keyboard. That is how he wrote a whole book.

It goes to show that everything is achievable, and even if you have been severely limited. Something to think about when you feel like procrastinating!

Great hub :)

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on March 18, 2014:

Shauna, I don't know how he does it either. It's truly amazing to watch. Hope you checked out the video so you could see for yourself. Thanks for reading!

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on March 18, 2014:

Many thanks to you for reading Bk42author.

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on March 18, 2014:

Thank you for reading kerlund74. I am so glad you enjoyed the article and got to learn about Michael.

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on March 18, 2014:

Thank you Flourish for the share. He is a tenacious and beautiful spirit for sure.

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on March 18, 2014:

Thank you DDE!

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on March 18, 2014:

Thank you Jodah. I am glad you are inspired by Michael. He has inspired many during his lifetime.

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on March 18, 2014:

Thank you so much word55. I hope Michael's story will inspire many. And I used to be a journalist! :)

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on March 18, 2014:

Thank you Nell. He is truly an amazing spirit.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 18, 2014:

What an amazing story, Crystal! You did an excellent job of bringing this man's story to the forefront. He is a true inspiration. I don't know how he does it. I'd go cross-eyed being that close to the canvas.

Brenda Thornlow from New York on March 18, 2014:

Amazing hub! Not only does it remind us to never take anythng for granted but that all things are possible with God's help! Thank you so much for sharing! Voted up!

kerlund74 from Sweden on March 18, 2014:

Fantastic story about a fantastic person. So strong to go through all these challenges that life have brought upon him. Wonderful, thank you for sharing.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 18, 2014:

I had to share this hub. He is gifted and resilient, an inspiration to us all. Thank you for profiling him.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 18, 2014:

A beautiful hub about Davenport you certainly shared a valuable and interesting hub. He sounds like a wonderful person and you made me know me more thank you

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on March 17, 2014:

Wonderful hub Crystal. Michael Davenport and people like him are an inspiration to us all. A delight to read. Voted up.

Al Wordlaw from Chicago on March 17, 2014:

Hi Crystal, You wrote like a journalist. That was a very inspirational article. Thank you for recognizing and sharing this man's story. Amazing video, I'm re-inspired! My hat's off to you too! Voted way up!

Nell Rose from England on March 17, 2014:

What an amazing guy! as billy said, some people will never fail to amaze me, and leave me in awe. they also make me feel so humble when we moan about stupid things, this guy is wonderful! great hub Crystal, voted up and shared!

Crystal Tatum (author) from Georgia on March 17, 2014:

Yes, he is an incredible person and an inspiration to all of us. I am trying to remember that image of him, still out there on that windy day, when I drove by hours later. Sometimes I think I have it hard. I only think I do.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 17, 2014:

Absolutely amazing, and you told his story very well. No matter how long I live, Crystal, people still inspire me daily.