Kevin’s Love of Disney Art Helps Him Manage His EDS
Kevin Graham is an inspiration to all of us struggling with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
NORTH MIDDLETON TWP. — “A few years ago, artist Kevin Graham was given about 18 months to live.
During that time, he and his wife also found out they were going to have a third baby.
Faced with this information, Graham tried to spend as much time as he could with his other two children and his wife. He was also trying to figure out how he would be able to stay a part of his family’s life, even if he died.
“It was really sad, so much to the point that I was writing out cards ahead of time for every birthday,” Graham said. “I wanted to make sure if I died, at least he would have cards every birthday from me. It was really hard to do.”
Graham was born with a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome that causes his parts of his body to overextend and not stop. He also had a spine condition that was disabling him. When he was in his 30s, Graham had a heart attack, and it was then that he was told that he only had about six months to live.
Then, he had a surgical procedure and got a pacemaker inserted, saving his life. Graham said after recovering from the surgery, he was thrilled to be able to see his family and meet his newborn son.
Now, because of his medical issues, Graham stays home with his youngest son and works on both his artwork and his website design company. He said the experience taught him a lot about living life and making sure to value each moment.
“I figure my time will hopefully still come, to get where I want to be,” he said. “I didn’t think so when I had the heart surgery and was given 18 months to live, but now I will hopefully have a lot longer.”
Though Graham mostly works at home, he will be one of the artists who will be present at Sci-Fi Saturday this coming Saturday at Carlisle High School.
Since 2006, Graham has drawn and either sold or traded about 11,000 sketch cards, which are hand-drawn cards inserted into packs of collector’s cards.
The North Middleton Township resident said he has been drawing since he was a young child, but in recent years, he has really found his stride.
“When I was a kid, when everyone else was worried about sports or getting drunk after school, I was always busy and very nerdy,” Graham said. “I always wanted to become a well-known artist and get my work sold or bought.”
Now, Graham is one of only a handful of people who are officially allowed by Lucasfilm to draw “Star Wars” characters. Since he has a large collection of figurines from the film, being licensed to draw the characters has been like a dream for Graham.
He said the only thing that would be better, would be having the permission to draw Disney characters commercially.
Challenges of commercial art
While his love of drawing Disney and “Star Wars” characters runs deep, Graham said it’s difficult to keep up with all of the rules involved. Because Disney is a highly watched and regulated animation company, people can’t legally draw and distribute artwork for profit with the company’s name on it.
He said the same is true with Lucasfilm. If Graham draws a piece of artwork, sells it and makes money off of the piece, the company takes the original piece. He said he doesn’t actually own the original of any art that he has drawn for Lucasfilm.
“(Lucasfilm) wanted to own the physical artwork,” Graham said. “A lot of these things were in my kids’ rooms framed and signed by the actors.”
Some of the biggest challenges he faces when trying to make it in the commercial art world include the issue of ownership, as well as making sure that he knows everything that is involved and allowed in his contracts with companies such as Lucasfilm. He said there is a lot of misconceptions when it comes to drawing characters that are licensed by a large company, because people don’t realize that they can’t just draw and sell whatever they want.
“It’s not as glorious as most people think because, like when I worked for Topps, you get crap for that,” Graham said. “If you work for Disney, you don’t get a lot of money unless you become famous. It really varies.”
Having a side job
Graham owns his own website design company, Graham Art Productions, and has made sites for people including the Black Eyed Peas and Hillary Clinton. He said designing the websites keeps him busy during the day, but in the midst of taking care of his children and working on the sites, he tries to carve out time to do artwork each day.
Since Graham’s love of Disney is life-long, he said his end goal for his career is to become an official artist for Disney. He said it’s a difficult thing to accomplish because Disney only has a few artists. However, that only makes him try harder to show the company what he can do.
“I’ve always been a huge Disney fan, I actually applied to be an animator when I was 16 years old, and of course (they) told me to go to college,” Graham said. “I’m trying to get higher up in Disney. I’ve done stuff for Disney, like licensing for clothing and stuff.”
Residents can meet Graham in person on Saturday during Sci-Fi Saturday. He can also be reached at his website at www.kevingrahamart.com.”
Check out Kevin’s fantastic artwork at the site listed above.
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