For some reason we’ve always admired charcoal sketches. Probably because they’re so accessible—all you need is a piece of paper, an eye, and a stick of graphite, and off you go. There’s also the fact that we doodle constantly to burn off surplus mental fumes. Or maybe we’re just nostalgic for the analog world of distant memory.
The point is, when Daniel Edmondson’s art started showing up in our Instagram feed we immediately gravitated to it. When it kept appearing, we started to bookmark. Then we messaged him. And earlier this week we found ourselves on the phone with the guy, talking about the role drawing plays in his life as an amputee.
“I feel like everyone at their core is an artist,” says Edmondson, who lost both legs below the knee almost seven years ago in a trainyard accident. “I think that the only thing that stops them from making art is being too self-critical.”
Drawing helped Edmondson get through the long Minnesota winter that he spent rehabbing from his injuries. “I didn’t really have my prosthetics yet,” he says, “so I started drawing as kind of a coping tool. It started with drawing pop culture characters and giving them amputations. So I would draw, like, Mary Poppins trying to find her leg in her bag. Or silly stuff like Sonic the Hedgehog—I put running blades on him. Then I did Bart Simpson, and I drew him with a prosthesis.”
Edmondson continued to sketch long after his injuries healed and he resumed the active lifestyle he’d maintained before losing his legs. A lifelong skateboarder, he discovered a whole new community of limb-different riders after his accident, and Edmondson says they played a tremendous role in helping him adapt to life as an amputee. One of the most important was Mark Mann, a Paralympic snowboarder and fellow bilateral amputee who visited Edmondson while the latter was still recuperating in the hospital. Eventually the pair teamed up to operate skateboard clinics for Wiggle Your Toes, a Twin Cities nonprofit that provides a broad range of programs and services for amputees.
When he wasn’t riding, Edmondson was usually drawing, and before long he had about a dozen sketches of his friends from the adaptive skateboard scene, and that’s when it dawned on him: He was making a book. The end result was the Adaptive Skate Coloring Book, published in 2016 with support from Wiggle Your Toes and a few other sponsors.
“Color activates the same parts of the brain as meditation,” Edmondson explains. “So coloring books are very therapeutic. They’re a good coping tool. So I really wanted to get this out into the adaptive community.”
The initial print run of 1000 copies sold out, and Edmondson is now sitting on another stack of several hundred copies from the second printing. “I’ve got boxes of them in my bedroom,” he laughs. They are available at a discount, particularly if you’re ordering in bulk. And they’re an affordable, accessible way to tap into the right side of your brain and vent some creativity, whether or not you consider yourself artistic.
“If you’re not sure of yourself, start with something easy,” says Edmondson. “If you’re making rough sketches and they look a little weird—well, how many cartoonists got started that way? Start with coloring books or paint by number so you can learn to blend colors. Try different media. If you’re not good with paper, maybe you’re better with clay. Just pick something and get at it. You’re just going to have to keep practicing.”
“It’s just like skateboarding,” he adds. “You’re not gonna get better if you don’t do it every day.”
Keep up with Edmondson’s creations on Instagram @danieljedmondson, and/or message him there to order a copy of the Adaptive Skate Coloring Book. (It’s no longer available via Amazon or other distributors.) While single copies are available, bulk orders are preferred.