7 Dec 2018

Former engineer and territorial soldier returns to Defence with art

7:43 pm on 7 December 2018

A difficult life-changing injury is not holding back a former territorial soldier from a passion of painting.

Grant Philip suffered a diving accident nearly 30 years ago.

He was just fresh into his military career - he'd trained as an apprentice sheet metal engineer and territorial soldier.

However, all that came to a halt at the age of 18 after the accident left him a tetraplegic.

Service runs in his blood - his parents were in the military too - and that kept his spirits alive.

"Pretty much to me it is planning and logistics... you know if you're going to be doing anything then you plan what you need (and) where you're going and it seems to run quite smoothly," he said.

All these years later, he's returned to his army roots.

As well as competing at this year's Invictus Games in archery, he's been part of a group of current and former personnel, along with families, who have turned a painful situation into art.

The Art in Recovery programme is in its first year and the pieces have been on display behind the wire at Burnham Military Camp, in Canterbury.

Grant Philip has been painting for more than a decade and uses his mouth to hold the brush.

"(It took) 35 to 40 hours it was sort of on-and-off with mixing it up with my training for the Invticus Games... with this one it was do a little bit, come back and do some more," he said.

He's painted a vintage shot of ANZAC soldiers on horses - there's the rich blue sky, lush green grass, along with the smart army uniforms of bygone years.

Mr Philip said he loved to paint landscapes and flowers, as well, he had painted calendars and Christmas cards with other mouth and foot artists in Christchurch.

He said he was not in a dark space about his situation.

"Through art you do have a release to show how you feel or you're feelings and for me it was just a nice way to relax and put my thoughts on the canvas," he said.

He's encouraging others to give art a go.

Defence Force liaison officer for injured, wounded, or ill personnel, Rebecca Maddaford, said it was a powerful exhibition and gave a voice to those who have been knocked-back in life.

She said she was humbled by the quality of the art and the ambition of those involved.

"It's getting people talking about their journeys and hopefully it is encouraging more people to potentially talk about what's gone of them," she said.

The plan was to exhibit more art in the future and give others who have been a dealt a blow in life a chance to paint.

Grant Philip's feature piece has been gifted to the army to display at the different bases.