BERKELEY -- Like many artists, Monique Harris would love to make enough money to support herself full time.
For now though, Harris, who has limited use of her arms and legs and has used a wheelchair all her life, is happy just to display her work in public.
With cerebral palsy sapping the abilities of her hands to do art, she uses a pointer attached to her head to make computer-generated graphic art, one painstaking tap on the keyboard at a time.
"My mother was an artist and I love art, but I had to figure out a way I could do it on my computer," Harris said Wednesday at an opening for some of her works at Mo'Joe Cafe in Berkeley. "I love different colors and images. I don't know what I see when I start, I just start going."
Harris, who is 48 and lives in Emeryville, uses applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Publisher to sculpt her images.
Using her head to execute commands on software without the use of a mouse is a laborious process, but the only one she knows.
"What you and I could do using the mouse in a few minutes takes her hours," said Bill Hollis, who taught her how to use the applications at the Cerebral Palsy Center of the Bay Area in Oakland. "She's extremely strong. Perseverance is the true word here. Just yesterday, for the first time ever, and I've known her for years, she said, 'sometimes my neck gets stiff.'"
Harris concedes that "doing art is hard work."
Since she decided to make art her full-time mission about three years ago, she's created about 70 images that she's happy with, she said.
About seven years ago, Harris, who has a business degree from Merritt College in Oakland, started a business creating pointing boards to help disabled people communicate. The boards have words and symbols in small boxes that someone can point to for food, for example, or the bathroom. She also makes bingo cards.
Making those boards planted the creative seed for what she does now.
"When that part of my business slowed down, I got into art," Harris said.
She said she owes much of her development to Hollis.
In addition to the show at Mo'Joe, Harris' work is on display at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, a center for disability nonprofits above the Ashby BART station. She's also been able to put some work on consignment at a shop on Solano Avenue and has some work on display at a local ophthalmologist's office.
Vivian Taube of the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley, who works with Harris as an independent living instructor, said one of Harris' goals is "to be able to support herself with her work."
"We're really proud of her display at the Ed Roberts Campus," Taube said. "That was not easy to get because the art committee doesn't meet all that often. But everybody loves her art there, and she's such a very hard-working person."
Hollis agreed: "Nothing seems to stops her."
For more information on Harris' work and how to contact her, go to www.moniquescreations.blogspot.com
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.