Texas artist without hands is different, not disabled

Desmond Blair

Credit: WFAA

Artist Desmond Blair has no hands on either arm. But what he can do at the end of each arm is nothing short of raw talent.

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by JASON WHITELY

WFAA

Posted on January 16, 2013 at 10:26 AM

DALLAS, Texas — Art is about expression, feeling, and requires nothing but imagination.

"I don't tell people this often," Desmond Blair began, "but I sometimes forget I don't have hands."

"I have partial palms," he explained. "I was actually born with a small thumb and a pinkie, but I had to get them amputated when I was about three years old because I slammed one of them in a door."

Desmond's palms formed, but his fingers did not. He has no hands on either arm.

Still, what he can do at the end of each arm is nothing short of raw talent.

"I think one of the benefits of being born without hands is that I have had to learn to become a problem-solver throughout my life," Blair said.

He might have learned that, but art comes naturally.

Desmond has created remarkable works on canvas. Dozens — perhaps hundreds — of paintings, portraits and abstracts by navigating the brush with the ends of his two arms.

In fact, there's not much he can't do.

"I still can't tie a tie, and I still can't drive a stick shift, but those are on my list of things to figure out," Desmond added with a smile.

WHAS11's sister station in Dallas, WFAA, first met Blair in 1999 when he was entering high school and just recognizing his abilities.

"Of course, then there were people with square arms, big heads and squiggly hair," a young Blair said at the time.

He graduated from Dallas' Skyline High School at age 16 and enrolled at the University of Texas at Dallas.

"I just learned to not let it bother me," he said when asked how he responded to stares and children who made fun of him.

Desmond navigates photographs without effort, is quick on a keyboard, and loves his iPhone — which he easily types on with the ends of his arms on its flat surface.

Blair earned an undergraduate degree and a master's degree from UT Dallas, and currently works there managing digital projects for the Army and Baylor.

Being born without hands isn't the only challenge Desmond faced. He grew up in a modest Pleasant Grove neighborhood. He was raised by a single mother.

After he was born, therapists gave her one piece of advice.

"She said to give him the best education, and what did that mean to me?" Joyce Blair asked. "I couldn't afford to put him in private school, so that meant I was going to have to really be involved."

Prayer helped her stay positive.

"One doctor said what possibly could have happened is his hands broke through the placenta, and the placenta grew back and cut the circulation off," she said.

Desmond sells his paintings to raise money for charity.

He has prosthetics, but rarely uses them — insisting he's not disabled — just different.

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