Strength In Art

Throughout his years as a student at Jasper High School, Jason Stockburger of Jasper never contemplated making a career out of his artwork. It wasn’t until earlier this year that the 38-year-old rekindled his interest in creating art. But 20 years after graduating, there’s one major difference: Jason is a quadriplegic as a result of an automobile accident in September 2007. Jason has enough movement in his arms, but not his fingers, that allows him to still draw. He worked on a piece of artwork July 10 in his room at The Timbers of Jasper.

Story by Alexandra Sondeen
Photos by Dave Weatherwax

With careful movements, the artist adds highlights of metallic gel ink to a drawing of St. Anthony holding the baby Jesus.

“I’m ready for the gold pen now,” Jason Stockburger, 38, tells his mother July 24, holding out his right arm.

Affixed to his hand is a homemade device that holds the pens for him. Debie (Jordan) Stockburger removes one pen to snap in a new one, double-checking that it’s positioned correctly for her son.

Jason’s mother, Debie Stockburger of Jasper, put a marker in the device strapped to Jason’s hand that allows him to hold onto his markers to draw.

“Yeah, it’s fine,” he replies before turning his attention back to the piece in front of him.

A car accident in September 2007 in Pike County broke two vertebrae in Jason’s neck, C5 and C6, leaving him paralyzed. After lying inside his truck in a ditch for hours unable to move, Ted Weidenbenner — married to his godmother, Judy — happened to take a new route to a family fishing hole the next morning and found him.

“If it had been another hour or two, (Jason) would have been dead,” Debie said.

Jason doesn’t remember the accident, just waking up in Deaconess Hospital with his neck and head immobilized by a halo brace. He is legally classified as a quadriplegic.

“I can move my arms some, but my hands and fingers don’t work at all,” he said. “My right arm is better than my left, which is good because I’m right-handed.”

After surgery and time in an intensive care unit, he spent six months in a facility in Muncie before moving back to his hometown in Jasper where his parents live. He has lived at The Timbers of Jasper since the summer of 2008.

Jason had served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Wasp from 1993 to 1995, then on inactive duty until 1997. He worked at area factories and gas stations before the accident. He had been a talented artist at Jasper High School where he graduated in 1993, but art was a hobby for him at that point.

“He was one of our more talented young men in school,” said retired JHS art teacher Fred Robberts. “We had to kind of convince him to take himself seriously.”

Upon getting back to Jasper, Jason’s father, Dave, fashioned Jason a special clip to see if he could still draw. He could.

These are examples of Jason’s artwork. Jason is selling prints of St. Anthony and the Christ child, left, to help him purchase art supplies.

“I was upset in general, being paralyzed,” Jason said. “You miss everything you could do before. Finding out I could still draw made it better.”

With the encouragement of his family, Robberts and another former JHS art teacher, Tom Schum, Jason has been drawing virtually every day.

“It’ll be one of those things that adds a lot to his life as he tries to move forward,” Schum said. “It gives him a purpose and a sense of satisfaction and confidence. We’ve been telling him about some famous artists, like Chuck Close, who were disabled and overcame it.”

Chuck Close is an American painter known for his large, photorealistic portraits who is also a quadriplegic with limited movement of his arms.

For Jason, his art has helped him gain some additional control over the arm muscles that he can use, though he still experiences spasms.

“If you look close at the artwork, you can see some little lines going off where maybe they shouldn’t,” Dave said. “That’s from his spasms. You know it’s Jason’s work when you see those lines.”

Jason works in ink, using ballpoint and gel pens along with Prismacolor markers from a

box of 156 colors.

 

“Maybe someday I can try some other mediums, but I haven’t gotten there yet,” he said.

He is working on adding art to his portfolio with the goal of eventually having a showing in a local gallery. He hopes to sell his art to help pay for some of his medical expenses and for his art supplies.

“I’d like to be more self-sufficient,” he said. “Before the accident, I always liked doing things by myself and I had to learn to ask for help. That’s hard to get used to. If I can help pay for some things, that will at least be something.”

Debie helps Jason with his work, erasing pencil lines if he sketches a design before using ink and changing out pens and markers for him. She embosses his original pieces to distinguish them from copies.

Jason is selling prints of the St. Anthony piece, which he adds original metallic gel ink to, for $100. The money helps pay for art supplies and framing for other pieces he hopes to include in a future showing.

Much of his work to date has been of animals and religious figures as requested by family and friends, though he’s drawn other subjects including a seascape and an abstract woman.

“He uses his laptop and looks around on the Internet and finds something he likes,” Dave said.
“Then he makes it his own. He’s very creative.”

Jason’s work has impacted those around him. Robberts was inspired to get back into doing

more of his own art. Debie said her son’s gift reminds her what is possible despite her own spinal problems and arthritis.

 

“It’s a miracle what he can do,” Debie said. “There’s no other way to describe it. God didn’t let everything get taken away.”

Debie Stockburger is handling the sale of the prints of the St. Anthony artwork. She can be reached at 661-8344.

Contact Alexandra Sondeen at asondeen@dcherald.com.




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