With deftness and grace, Edward Anderson's fingers flit across the keyboard of his computer. A click of the mouse here, a touch of a key there, and an image begins to appear. He studies it for a few moments, then begins adding effects. He manipulates color, tone and texture — as most artists do. Only he works without a palette and brush, using keystrokes instead.
Bringing an image from his mind to a screen is uplifting for the 35-year-old Spring Hill artist, but there's more to it than that. For Anderson, who was born with cerebral palsy, creating original art is as much of a life calling as it is a passion.
Despite the condition that impairs his muscular coordination and motor control as well as his ability to speak clearly enough for others to understand him, Anderson is happy to let his art speak for him. And it does so, through skillfully rendered images that explode with vivid colors and are so finely detailed they seem almost like photographs.
In a series of fantasy-based creations, he weaves complex three-dimensional patterns into images that are as visually beautiful as they are enthralling. In another landscape series, Anderson places the viewer on a precipice overlooking a river as it cuts through weathered limestone that resembles the Grand Canyon.
With his mother, Sherry Veliquette, acting as his interpreter, Anderson explained that his fascination with computer-generated art began when he was 14. Back then, the medium was still pretty much in its infancy. Personal computers didn't have nearly the storage capacity that they do today. And much of the creative software in use today didn't exist.
"You were very limited as to what you could do," Anderson said. "It's much easier now to create. The sky is the limit."
Learning by doing
Anderson, whose work is on display as part of the Brooksville City Hall Art Gallery's fall exhibit, earned a degree in film industries technology specializing in computer art and animation at the University of Central Florida in 2000. A master of illustration software such as Ultra Fractal, Vue, and 3D Studio Max, he devotes a good portion of each day to creating and experimenting with his art.
Although he works extensively in "fractal" or geometric-based forms, Anderson admits that much of what inspires him comes from nature. It might be a growth on a tree trunk, a peculiar-shaped rock or just the way a shadow falls on a body of water.
"I connect with the randomness of nature," he said. "There's a freedom to things you don't normally expect to see."
Veliquette said her son has always tried to look beyond the limits of his physical disability. Affable and social, he prefers to look at life with a sense of humor.
"He's so funny sometimes," Veliquette said. "I think that's what makes him a good artist. You can see in a lot of his work."
Born in Traverse City, Mich., Anderson moved to Spring Hill as a teen to escape the icy winters that made it hard for him to navigate with his unsteady gait.
But for Anderson, who always had taken honors classes, life at Springstead High was a struggle. He was placed in an exceptional student education program, which didn't offer much in the way of intellectual challenges.
"The Americans With Disabilities Act hadn't taken effect, so there wasn't much he could do to fight it," Anderson's mother recalled. "Ed was pretty bored most of the time."
But things eventually got better. Anderson joined the school's DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) club and even earned a varsity letter with the golf team.
After graduation in 1993, Anderson set his sights on a career in film animation. He attended Pasco-Hernando Community College and later enrolled at UCF in Orlando with the hope of making connections to land a job as a special effects artist with Disney's studios or one of the emerging computer animation companies that were popping up around the area.
But Anderson soon learned what many people with cerebral palsy encounter: prospective employers often dismiss their abilities and focus only on their disability.
For his mother, that's still hard to accept.
"It's never quite made sense to me," Veliquette said. "Ed's always been independent. In school, he always lived on his own and got himself around town. His disability has never affected the quality of his work or his ability to do a job."
Anderson eventually returned to Michigan to be with his ailing father. But the frustration of not being able to pursue his passion caught up with him and led to serious bout with depression.
"I was at a stage in my life where I was examining my spirituality and how it fit into my life," Anderson recalled. "I was lucky to have had a lot of good support from my family and friends."
Anderson's personal reflections of that time led him to create his first expressionistic renderings, a three-portrait series called Three Stages of Depression, which were part of a public display at a Michigan gallery.
Since returning to Spring Hill in June of 2009, Anderson has focused solely on his art in the hope that it will eventually lead to other opportunities, and perhaps a coveted job as a special effects animator.
"Being an artist means being optimistic," Anderson said. "I think creating something of beauty brings that spirit of hope to people."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or email@example.com.