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Teen works through cerebral palsy to create art

by WADE ALLEN Gaston (Gastonia) Gazette on October 15, 2013 10:00 AM

GASTONIA, N.C. — Presley Teigue doesn’t let cerebral palsy stop her from creating and selling digital artwork. Using her Apple MacBook Pro, the 18-year-old digitally manipulates photos and creates new ones.

“Life is not pretty,” she said. “It’s your job to make it that way.”

Then she prints the images onto canvasses for a professional touch and sells them at her grandparents’ fish camp, Catfish Cove in Belmont. She doesn’t consider herself an artist. She’s humble about her ability. It’s a hobby that comes naturally, she says.

Teigue’s portfolio boasts nearly 70 images, from characters in Tim Burton movies to a festive male turkey with dozens of colors on its feathers. Her highest-end work is priced around $30. Her grandmother, Sue Stowe, of Cramerton, helps sell it at the fish camp where Teigue works weekends. Sixty-five canvases cover the wall behind the cash register. After filling up on flounder and hush puppies, customers sometimes take home a piece of Teigue’s artwork.

“They always want to know who did them and tell her how beautiful they are,” Stowe said. “We sell some every weekend. One weekend we sold six. You just never know.”

They’ve sold more than 100 in the three months since the pieces have been on display at the restaurant. Teigue said she’s constantly creating new images for class assignments at Highland School of Technology.

Then she goes home and makes more for her own enjoyment. She wants to attend Gaston College next year and transfer to Wingate University to work toward earning a pharmaceutical degree. She’d like to raise enough money selling art to pay tuition.

Teigue has created digital artwork using Adobe Photoshop for three years. Her grandmother says admirers frequently brag about her talent.

But being a professional artist doesn’t appeal to Teigue. A boss telling her what to create would take the fun out of it, she said.

Stowe said a customer saw her granddaughter’s artwork hanging at Catfish Cove and offered Teigue a job in graphic design. The teen dismissed his offer.

“I’m not truly passionate about this,” she said. “Oddly enough, I prefer to do chemistry.”

She’s determined to make a career in pharmacy work. She gets around with the aid of a walker. She’s undergone 10 surgeries over the years to correct muscle issues associated with cerebral palsy. Digital artwork creation eliminates the need for hand-to-paper contact.

“I still have to create it, but there’s not like the human error thing going on. I’m able to make the computer do it, where I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own,” she said. “I tremble and I shake uncontrollably sometimes because my muscle tone is just chaotic. I can’t imagine painting and all of the sudden start shaking. I don’t think it would work very well.”

She finds inspiration by using Google images to search for subjects. “I just go crazy with it. I just manipulate it until I get it where I want it,” she said. “I play with it until I’m happy with it. And I have a really high standard for myself.”

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