Meet Len Upin And His Wonderful Artwork…

Stroke and Beyond

“I thought my job, as an art high school teacher, was an ideal profession. Plus my 3 kids and my wife were a healthy, creative, handsome group. It was a perfect picture. Yet, my stroke and aphasia, my decision to select an early retirement and the loss of our oldest son was too much to bear — all within a 10-month period.”

I am Len Upin and this top paragraph was part of my greetings of one of my art exhibits Stroke and Beyond.  I called myself an art teacher first and an artist second.  My students’ art education came over my own artwork.  However, my unexpected stroke at the age of 47 and leaving me with aphasia, I needed to find something else, other then teaching full-time anymore.  I figured I work go back to my natural talent – my own artwork but, which technique, which media.  I have a Masters in painting and 23+ years of strong training in printmaking, drawing, ceramics, and others.  So, I enrolled in a variety of art classing trying to “find myself” a year or two after and during my speech therapy. Pretty much I recalled the technical knowledge, but it was the terms in the arts were the problem.

Eventually, I focused on the fundamental technique of drawing.  My style, though, was changed after my brain event.  I was no longer interested in creating the tight, hatched marks and details that I made before.  My artistic perspective was askewed, plus the patience I once had was gone.  Now, my fields of value became scribble marks.  This new, loose, big-styled marks give me great satisfaction.  In a way, I found it more exciting than my old well-rendered manner.

It is been 8 ½ years after my stroke.  Four years of speech therapy from four separate facilities who taught me how to redirect my brain.  I do teach art still, but only on very small group or private basis.  Now I consider myself an artist first and a teacher second. I have been showing my artwork 23 times and commissions in Chicago and surrounding suburbs.

I have to say the years of speech therapy, the love of art and his family AND probably a lot of luck, brought me where I am now.




Jim, 2009












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Reader Comments

Brilliant art – and inspiring story. Thanks

Written By Tony on August 10th, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

As a speech pathologist I work with many aphasic stroke survivors. I have found that art is a great way to work through word finding problems. Getting your hand working with paper and pencil often helps communicate a thought or idea. It is a good self cueing system to use even if you are simply drawing circles or lines on the paper. Using stick figures, simple line drawings as you speak will move you forward toward getting your point across. Remember, perfect speech is not necessary.

Written By Diane Johnson on August 10th, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

You are an inspiration! As the speech therapist above said, art can be a wonderful outlet for stroke survivors. An alternative to the sometimes excruciating loss of words by which they feel trapped. Thank you for your story and keep drawing!

Written By Ashley on August 10th, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

Beautiful work, inspiring. Unique, but knowing Len, anything but unique would be a surprise. Very much Looking forward to viewing more of his work.

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