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Arts & Literature

Peter Longstaff paints another piece of work
Peter Longstaff

Foot artist's work goes on show in London

Peter Longstaff, an artist from Norfolk who paints with sole, has contributed a selection of his work to an exhibition at the prestigious Royal College Of Art until Thursday, 26 October, 2006.

A man from north Norfolk who paints with his foot is enjoying the opportunity to showcase some of his work in London.

Peter Longstaff, from Roughton, is a member of the Mouth And Foot Painting Artists' (MFPA) group and will be exhibiting at the Royal College Of Art as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations.

Peter was born without arms after his mother took thalidomide, a drug prescribed for pregnant women with morning sickness in the late fifties and early sixties which resulted in their children being born with deformities.

Despite having no arms, Peter learnt to use his right foot like his right hand and this sense of independence helped him complete main stream schooling.

He came from a supportive family and says he had a good childhood growing up in Cleveland. But it wasn't all plain sailing.

"Some could be cruel and you always get one or two who poke fun, but over the years I've just become oblivious to it, I really do manage to block it out," he said.

Painting by Peter Longstaff - Winter Walk
Painting by Peter Longstaff (detail)

"I don't see it and that stems from being a child going through normal schooling, you just get hardened up to it," he added.

From pig farming to foot artist

After school, Peter became a pig farmer. He used to drive tractors, muck the pigs out and bail hay.

Peter was in the business for 20 years, but left seven years ago because of changes in the market.

"To finish that was a tough time for me," he said.

"I'm sure my family and kids will tell you, the last few years, I've been an absolute miserable sod to live with, just trying to adjust.

"But now, I'm working for the Mouth And Foot Painting Artists designing Christmas cards and Easter cards," he added.

Living in Norfolk

Peter lives with his wife and three children.

When he's not painting or studying for his art A-level, he's a house husband.

Living in a rural area, he uses a specially adapted car to get around and drives an automatic jeep.

Painting by Peter Longstaff - Carols
Carol singers (detail)

The main difference from a normal vehicle is that he steers using a footplate.

"I've got to admit, I was stopped once in Sheringham by a policeman because he couldn't see my arms on the steering wheel," said Peter.

"And, of course, when he opened the car up and he then realised what he saw, what could he do," he added.

Exhibiting in London

Peter's work will be on exhibition with more than 20 other artists from the MFPA, including Alison Lapper, who has her statue exhibited in Trafalgar Square.

Peter hopes that having his work exhibited at the Royal College will be the start of a successful career.

The MFPA exhibition can be viewed at the Royal College Of Art from Saturday, 21 to Thursday, 26 October, 2006.

The nearest tube stops to the college are High Street Kensington and Gloucester Road. Admission is free.

last updated: 20/10/06
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