Zhang Junli, a Chinese woman who is crippled, is inspiring millions of people with her beautiful drawings. Zhang, 42, has filled hundreds of canvases with her incredible art, all of which she created from her bed, after being afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of six!
Zhang is from the north Chinese province of Shanxi. 90 percent of her joints quit working less than three years after she was diagnosed with the incurable condition. She’s been battling the disease for more than three decades, yet she’s never let herself wallow in self-pity!
Zhang, on the other hand, discovered creative methods to make the best of her situation. She sketched wonderful images with her paralyzed fingers holding a paintbrush and letting her imagination run wild.
“The world is too beautiful. Even if I am in poor health, I don’t want to give up the opportunity to live,” she said. Ever since picking up a paintbrush three years ago, Zhang has come a long way. Her works are sought after by art lovers, and she now owns an online shop, “Lily’s Easel,” on WeChat.
Her inspiring story has touched the hearts of many across China, and many people online have shown support for her work. At one point, all 150 pieces of her artwork were sold out. “I can’t believe this. I am so touched by everyone’s support. It truly feels like a dream!” she said at the time. Zhang first felt the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis when she was six years old when her wrist and thumb would always swell up and hurt.
Her parents took her to the hospital for a checkup, and doctors diagnosed her with rheumatoid arthritis. They informed her father that she could end up paralyzed if her condition isn’t treated properly. Their worst nightmare came true in the winter of 1986, when her body completely went stiff and she felt great pain. Zhang could move her hip, shoulders, and neck a bit. Other than that, she can’t move at all.
When neighbors would come and visit, they’d ask her mother what was going to happen to “this poor child.” And her mom would respond with nothing but tears. “It was sad to see my mother like that,” Zhang said. “I’m just paralyzed – I’m alive.”
Unable to go to school, Zhang took up drawing as a hobby. In 2015, she started learning oil painting from a professional artist and never looked back. “Painting transformed me. The first time I picked up a brush, it’s as if I have found my calling. I felt that I lived to draw,” Zhang recalled.
It wasn’t an easy journey as Zhang’s wrists were completely stiff, which means she could only hold a brush between her thumb and index finger in a fist. She also needed to angle her shoulder and adjust the pressure she applies on the canvas to achieve the result she wants.
But with practice, she gained control of her process. Her devotion and passion for her craft also helped propel her success. A 75 cm x 100 cm canvas would take Zhang about seven to 12 days to finish. In a video footage released by China News, Zhang can be seen at work carefully mixing and painting different colors on a canvas to depict a night sky. She stops from time to time to take sips of water from a cup placed on her bedside.
Zhang draws inspiration from her friends’ travel photos, books, music, and scenic pictures found online. “This way, even if I couldn’t get out of the house, I get to see beautiful landscapes, skies and seas – I can still explore the world with my paint and my canvas,” she said.
Zhang, a true creative, has also written four books—one autobiography and three fictions. “I want to encourage people who are in the same situation as I am to not give up on themselves,” she said. “Instead of crying and worrying all day, explore your identity and find your meaning in life,’ she said. ‘Live in the present.”
What an inspiring woman! Watch the video below to learn more about Zhang Junli.
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