She stops for a moment, ponders her work, furrows her brow and continues. The bottom of her arms are streaked with charcoal smudges. This is because, to be able to actually draw, she has to rest her arms on the paper. As a result, her arms pick up remnants of the medium she is using.
An ink picture of a dog with a thick tail and floppy ears, her proudest artistic achievement, sits next to her. It’s her favorite “because all the other dogs turn out to have a fat head or small arms” — but this one is the most realistic.
For many artists, it would be just another picture. A nice likeness, but nothing out of the ordinary. But for Grand Haven High School sophomore Brittany VanDoorne, it’s a tremendous accomplishment — because Brittany was born with no hands.
When she was adopted seven years ago, she was unable to perform daily tasks like use silverware. Through hard work, she has managed to overcome her condition and is now able to do most things people wouldn’t expect of her.
Even though she was born without hands, Brittany has loved art since she was 5 years old. Brittany’s mom, Kelly VanDoorne, believes that life’s problems have inspired her artwork.
“Her life is a little bit different,” Kelly said, “so probably life’s struggles would promote her to have something to pour into.”
Despite her condition, she has taken art classes since elementary school to improve her skills. Now that she’s in high school, Brittany is taking Art and Design 1, where she’s had no trouble fitting in with other students.
“It’s not a whole lot different than having any other kid in class,” Grand Haven High School art teacher John Tarr said. “I rarely notice that she’s a little bit different than other people. But it’s pretty interesting, the way she manages. She does a good job with everything.”
The philosophy of the VanDoorne household is no different. To their family, Brittany is just like anyone else.
“She’s no different than anybody else,” Kelly said. “I don’t look at her as she doesn’t have hands. I don’t even really think about it anymore.”
Even with her management skills, sometimes class can be a challenge. Brittany has to tape down her papers to keep them from moving while she draws. Listening to lectures and taking notes can also be a struggle.
— By Emma Baty, Bucs Blade Managing Editor
To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.