RJ Higgins Discovers a New Life through Art

Some artists might say their work is a hobby, an interest, a passion. But for RJ Higgins, art has been a new lease on life.

After a serious accident seven years ago, RJ was paralyzed from the neck down deeming him an incomplete quadriplegic. Through physical therapy and a LOT of soul searching, he has been fighting his way back to do things most of us take for granted.

Early on, RJ’s therapists tried to point him to art to improve his use of his arms and hands. But as he was still coming to grips with his situation, trying to draw or paint was the last thing on his mind.

As the years ticked by, some of his function returned. He went to college and needed to learn to write left handed. He took a drawing and a watercolor class thinking he could learn dexterity and work on his fine motor control. This opened his eyes and what started as strictly a means to an end became a passion to create.

Today, Art by RJ Higgins covers an array of mediums (he says he gets bored easily) including graphite pencil, pen and ink, acrylic, water color and metal sculpture. His works are inspired by the ocean and all things in and around it. Creating and expressing through art has helped RJ find new direction.

RJ says the key to moving on from tragedy is to continue pushing yourself beyond your limitations. “You will never know the extent of your capabilities unless you are actively seeking them out,” he says. “Find the edge and push past it.”

When RJ draws, he must constantly watch his hand or it will just let go of the pen. Because of this focus and repetitive motion, his arm and hand will spasm after an undetermined period of time. It could be 30 minutes – it could be 2 hours. There are occasions when a spasm kicks in mid-stroke potentially ruining his artwork. Therefore, RJ has learned to take his time with each piece. As a result, some of his drawings have taken more than 40 hours to complete.

The idea of selling his work actually never crossed RJ’s mind until he shared some pieces with friends. A friend bought a black and white pen drawing of a baby sea turtle about a year ago. RJ thought she was just being nice. However, his friends’ positive feedback – and urging – continued. So he began offering his pieces to the public through his business, Art by RJ Higgins. Now, his work is in Simple Gestures, Zora Bora Gallery and you can find him at the Saturday Farmers’ Market.

You can also meet RJ and see some of his incredible pieces when you visit Art by RJ Higgins at Made in St. Augustine.