Oliver’s brush with creativity
By anyone’s standards, Oliver Mills is a high achiever.
At just 32 years old, this creative powerhouse from Adelaide has written four books, is an artist, poet and speaker.
It just so happens that Oliver also lives with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and vision impairment.
Oliver has been an artist for the last 10 years, had his first exhibition in 2019 at the Campbelltown ArtHouse, and has had his work commissioned and featured on the front of magazines.
“I like being independent”, Oliver says.
“I also like expressing myself and finding new ways to show others how I see the world.
“Because I am non-verbal, art gives me another way to communicate how I feel or what I think about life.
“I also enjoy exhibiting artwork and selling my paintings or greeting cards; I like feeling successful.”
Adelaide artist Henry ‘Jock’ Walker has been mentoring Oliver in his artwork since January 2020 and has been helping Oliver to build on his skills and extend on what he already knows to explore and create new works together.
“I love how many creative artworks Oliver can do independently and how excited he gets over the process,” Jock says.
“Especially with the newest mediums using charcoal and the iPad art apps, he just goes and goes and goes.
“I feel like we all get mesmerised by the things that he’s creating.
“I’m a real abstract art enthusiast so to see an artist who has the physical challenges that he does, create such interesting and beautiful artwork makes it even more special.”
In fact, Oliver’s unique artistic talent has led him to the privileged position of designing this year’s International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) lapel pin.
“The lapel pin artwork was my second and third session working with Jock and he was getting to know me and how I could paint independently with my different skills and special tools,” Oliver says.
“He made this cool implement with brushes attached and then attached it to my finger that also had paint on it.
“This helped me paint a bigger area than what I could normally do – it was like, ‘let’s see what I can do.’
“I feel like anything is possible with Jock.”
Oliver’s favourite colours include bright yellow, deep purple and metallic colours like gold, silver and bronze and he uses these and other colours in diverse ways to produce his highly- respected original art.
“I like to do it on my own,” Oliver says.
“One of my signature techniques is using my fingers to scratch or move the paint on the canvas.
“I also use specially designed holders that attach to my hand to help me hold art brushes and charcoals and crayons.”
Oliver’s creative achievements are nothing short of extraordinary given the personal challenges he has to overcome every day to pursue his dreams.
Yet the impressive success Oliver has had as an artist hasn’t stopped him from sometimes having days where he feels frustrated and he has mixed feelings about living with cerebral palsy.
“I have lots of up days and down days,” Oliver says.
“I write about it a lot in my poetry.
“Sometimes life can be a bit crappity crap; I feel like I’m always waiting, or my seizures get in the way of the things I want to achieve.
“But cerebral palsy is just a part of who I am.”
For those with disability who would like to try something creative, Oliver has some wise advice:
“Get a good support team behind you and keep striving for your dreams.”