Meet the viral TikTok painter who was born with cerebral palsy

Jeff Mitsuo is the 32-year-old painter behind the account Paint with Jeff, which just clocked in with 1.3 million followers.

The artist from Ontario was born with cerebral palsy, a condition that affects his motor abilities.

In 2020, Mitsuo’s best friend Jake Stevens recorded him painting. Stevens wanted to capture his joy and uploaded it to TikTok as an easy way to share the clip. Neither of them expected it to get 16 million views. 

Mitsuo doesn’t use ordinary painting techniques because of his condition, but his work is still as detailed as any other artist. He typically paints scenery like forests, skies, flowers and deserts. 

“Jeff and I met in high school about 15 years ago,” Stevens explained to In The Know. 

He was Mitsuo’s peer tutor and they have been friends ever since. Today, Stevens is a high school visual arts teacher. 

“I recently began teaching an adaptive art class for kids who have [disabilities]. I found the students absolutely loved our painting classes and decided to give it a try with Jeff,” Stevens said. 

Mitsuo took to painting quickly, which was a much-needed outlet during the lockdown. 

“He deals with high anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder,” Stevens said. “Generally, we can only do an activity for 45 minutes before he requires a change in scenery. Not so with painting; he is happy, focused and stress-free for multiples hours on end.”

Stevens helped Mitsuo open his very own Etsy shop where he has sold over $100,000 in paintings. Chase Stokes of Netflix’s The Outer Banks even reached out to Mitsuo and purchased a few prints. 

“We have begun several initiatives to give back,” Stevens said. “We have used some of the proceeds to set up a high school graduation bursary for students who have [disabilities]. We have also donated to the Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy.”

Mitsuo and Stevens are also covering the expenses for families in need to enroll their children into a local hockey program for kids with disabilities. 

“I think what people like most about Jeff is how pure he is, including me,” Stevens said. “He doesn’t try to earn followers or likes and I think people really gravitate towards how ‘real’ he is. He’s just having fun painting, and anyone who wants to follow along is more than welcome. He does really enjoy the nice comments people write to him. I make sure to read him as many as I can and he always listens while grinning from ear to ear.”

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If you found this story insightful, read about the Paralympic medalist who coached a toddler’s first walk with a prosthetic leg.

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