Meet “The Parkinson’s Painter,” The 78-Yr-Old Using Art To Inspire The World.

artist norman greenstein wearing glasses and looking off into the distance and a painting of a bare tree near water by norman greenstein

Norman Greenstein didn’t start selling his paintings until 2018, but he’s been an artist his entire life.

His notebooks from high school were always filled with doodles, prompting one of his friends to help him schedule an appointment with the dean of an art school. Instead of encouraging this eager student, the dean did the exact opposite.

“I showed him my work and he said, ‘The problem with modern art is you can spit on a canvas and call it art’ — that’s what he thought of my artwork,” Norman said, “so I didn’t do it.”

He also had a desire to travel, but with no money, he decided to serve in the U.S. Air Force for four years during the Vietnam War instead. Afterward, he pursued higher education, which led him to becoming a social worker and a Jewish community leader.

In 1971, Norman married a woman named Phyllis. Together, they went on to have three children: Michelle, Gabe, and Steven. The devoted dad made a wonderful life for himself and his family, often traveling across the U.S. as well as Israel. But life came to a screeching halt when, in 2008, he developed a small twitch in his leg.

man named norman greenstein posing in the woods with his wife, phyllis greenstein, and two of their children
YouTube

“I had a neurologist,” Norman said, “he took one look at me and he said, ‘You have Parkinson’s disease.'”

Diagnosed with the incurable degenerative disease, Norman was forced into retirement at 69 years old. He leaned on Phyllis for support as he adjusted to life with an illness that aggressively attacks the nervous system. Not long after, however, their roles reversed.

His beloved wife developed brain cancer. Although she’s now in remission, Norman said that in focusing on supporting Phyllis, he “didn’t have time to sit around and feel sorry” for himself.

It was around this time that Norman and his son Gabe went on a life-changing hike to Chrystal Mountain, which opened the dad up to the idea of creating time for art again. Before he knew it, Norman was painting and taking art classes at a community college.

He quickly learned that making art helped him cope with his symptoms, so he began teaching painting classes for seniors and others with Parkinson’s disease. In time, the quality of his work progressed, and by 2018, his masterpieces began to sell.

Inspired by their dad’s unending kindness, passion, and dedication, Gabe and Steven began interviewing Norman so they could create a memoir about his life. It’s available to purchase on Amazon, and it’s ever-so-perfectly named “Spit on A Canvas: The Journey of The Parkinson’s Painter.”

Since pursuing his passion for art, Norman has even had the honor of seeing his work in galleries, something he never would have imagined happening for most of his life.

“It’s wonderful. And they treated me, not as someone with Parkinson’s, they treated me as an artist,” he said. “It felt very good.”

As Norman continues to fulfill his lifelong dream of being an artist, he is also doing whatever he can to raise awareness and money for Parkinson’s research. Ten percent of the proceeds from his art goes to the American Parkinson Disease Association, while another 10 percent goes to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, both of which are dedicated to fighting this terrible disease.

Norman hopes the people who come to learn about his life will find the inspiration they need to pursue whatever it is they feel called to do — no matter what some critics might have to say.

“Don’t give up. Don’t give up,” Norman said. “If you are lucky enough to get some recognition, try to do some good with it.”

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