Recovering, Relearning and Rebuilding: The Triumphant Story of One Artist’s Journey Back to the New Normal
Master caricature artist Glenn Ferguson was at the top of his game before tragedy struck on New Year’s Day 2016. Newly married to JoAnn, the love of his life, Glenn was doing the job he loved: drawing caricatures for thousands of visitors at a popular Orlando theme park. Read the news story about the attack here.
Everything changed when Glenn was brutally attacked by a disgruntled coworker who was fired the previous day. Glenn was stabbed in the head and neck several times with a pair of scissors, which cut an artery and left him with a less than 50% chance of survival.
Overcoming the odds
Rushed to the hospital, He flatlined in the ambulance and was immediately wheeled into the OR where a team of surgeons and nurses worked on him against almost impossible odds – the blades of the scissors had penetrated five inches into Glenn’s skull, and lightning-fast decisions had to be made to keep Glenn alive. In fact, he died two more times during surgery from lack of oxygen, which caused his stroke that has left him with lasting after effects. Doctors placed Glenn into a medically-induced coma to allow his brain to heal and he spent two weeks in the ICU. During this time, Glenn contracted pneumonia from the tracheotomy tube, so it was a rough few weeks. Once he came out of the coma, Glenn spent another 16 days in a step-down unit where he had to relearn everything– standing, walking, speaking and regaining his independence.
After many, many months of physical, cognitive, speech and psychotherapy, Glenn has had to relearn how to walk, talk, read, write, and draw. He’s come incredibly far, but has not survived unscathed. He speaks with a stutter and has some memory loss and PTSD, and is unable to drive, but the biggest challenge to his ultimate recovery is that the brain injury has left him with hemianopia, which has greatly affected his visual processing. Although his eyes work, half of his vision doesn’t get to his brain and he only sees the left side of anything he sees – a huge problem to a visual artist.
New approaches and strategies for success
Anyone who’s ever met Glenn knows of his persistence and determination. A true artist at his very core, he realized he had to find new strategies that would allow him to create again. Since the vision problem was one of the primary obstacles to his creating art again, he adapted his drawing style. By positioning his work so he looks at it from the left, Glenn is able to see the piece better. Glenn is right-handed, but he now sometimes draws with his left (non-dominant) hand, which he has found helpful in achieving the look he wants. Drawing often takes more time than before, more sketching, more thinking and more relying on his peripheral vision, but he continues to create amazing and beautiful artwork.
A long-time Wacom friend
Wacom has worked with Glenn for many years (back to 2009, when Glenn won the ISCA (International Society of Caricaturist Artists) Golden Nosey Master Caricaturist award), and when we learned that Glenn was making a comeback to art, we were overwhelmed, relieved and grateful that he could return to a career he loved so much.
Here’s an excerpt from a 2015 Lucky Card Productions documentary about American caricature artists in which Glenn proudly wore his Wacom shirt. 🙂
Glenn now creates on a Wacom Cintiq Pro 32, and with the large-format display his body of work is growing and thriving. He now does all his digital artwork on the Cintiq because the large screen allows him to better see his creation, and using the Wacom Flex Arm, he can move the Cintiq anywhere he needs it.
Glenn no longer works in theme parks, but he still loves doing caricatures, illustration, and art of all kinds. Now, his love of digital artwork can continue to grow and get better. We look forward to see Glenn’s artwork journey in the future.
With a little help from his friends
This story is not just about Glenn – it’s also about the wonderful caregivers who brought an amazing artist back into the world again – the first responders, the medical personnel who worked hard to keep him alive and helped him regain his life, his friends and most of all his beloved, JoAnn, who stayed by his side every step of the way. JoAnn stuck with Glenn even through the dire predictions that he would not wake up, or be paralyzed or unable to walk, talk or draw ever again.
“I’m in awe every time I think of this. I tell her all the time, that during this situation, she didn’t sign up for this. Life isn’t supposed to go like this. A lot of women in her situation would have left. She has always said, ‘As long as he knows who I am, and that he loves me, we will work through anything together.” And she never left. She stayed. She stayed. Throughout all the recovery, this was the most important part. Love can heal most anything.” – Glenn Ferguson
Glenn must have had a lot of love because it’s been three and a half years since the incident and Glenn has surpassed all expectations.
Glenn’s unapologetic attacker was sentenced to life without parole in November 2017.
Glenn made a recent appearance on Jason’s Seiler’s Face the Truth podcast
About Glenn Ferguson
Glenn Ferguson lives with his lovely wife JoAnn, and his devoted service dog, Gracie in Florida. He’s doing very well and is rediscovering his love of art. We look forward to seeing what Glenn will do in the future and will be following his journey very closely.