Paralyzed Chinese Artist Experiences World Through Color-Xinhua | Pro Club Bd

Zhang Junli looks at paintings during an exhibition of her works in Taiyuan, capital of north China’s Shanxi Province, July 26, 2022. (Xinhua)

TAIYUAN, July 31 (Xinhua) — “Every step I took was like stepping on the tips of sharp knives, a sentiment shared by the Little Mermaid in Hans Christian Andersen’s story. I wondered if I was a sea princess too,” laughed Zhang Junli, recalling the time when she could still walk.

Zhang, 44, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of six and lost most of her joint function by the time she was eight.

With her parents worried and tired of being bedridden all day, Zhang decided to resume her childhood hobby of drawing.

“I realized that the most miserable life is not to have endless work, but to pass the days,” Zhang said.

The path to becoming an artist was not easy. Zhang’s joints and fingers were completely stiff, and she could only pinch the brush between her thumb and forefinger, bend her shoulder, and adjust the pressure she applied to the canvas.

Zhang was used to lying on her right side and found it difficult to reach the lower left corner of the canvas with her brush because she could not move the canvas at will.

She racked her brains and finally decided to practice drawing with her left hand. Since her joints and hands were largely paralyzed, she had to hold the brush with her left hand like a sword, and place her left hand over her right, which was also supporting the canvas.

“I was disappointed and often burst into tears when the canvas was tainted by my inability to control the brush,” Zhang recalled. Even after more than 20 years of practice, she still has occasional difficulties when drawing long lines.

A fan of animated films, Zhang was drawn to the characters’ stylized eyes, hairstyles, and costumes and replicated them on her canvases.

Unexpectedly, her work was featured in a local science fiction magazine. Zhang’s parents were enthusiastic and showed their work to colleagues, neighbors and relatives.

“Ever since I got sick, my mother was depressed and I strived to make her proud of me. And my wish has come true,” Zhang said.

Since then, Zhang has decided to become a professional cartoonist, hoping to transform her life through drawing cartoons.

Gradually she found that she could not paint many of the scenes she had imagined as she had never received any professional training. In 2004 she was deeply dissatisfied with a painting she had been working on for six months and this destroyed her confidence and dreams.

Over the next few years, Zhang stopped drawing comics.

In 2005, her parents, who were under financial pressure to send their other two children to college, bought her a laptop for 6,000 yuan (about US$889). Zhang gradually rose from her crisis and began writing online. Like painting, reading books and writing served to protect them from loneliness and illness.

Zhang writes novels by typing on her keyboard with a small wooden stick.

“I come up with so many stories every day, and when I can’t draw them, I write them down,” Zhang said. She has written four online novels and an autobiography entitled My Existence.

A visitor looks at a painting during an exhibition of Zhang Junli’s works in Taiyuan, capital of north China’s Shanxi Province, July 26, 2022. (Xinhua/Chen Zhihao)

But she still couldn’t give up on her dream and decided to start her formal education at the age of 31 with basic sketching. She learned from online courses and, unable to afford geometry blocks and plaster of paris, drew her drawing materials on rough paper.

After practicing sketching for five years, Zhang tried his hand at oil painting. She couldn’t go out to see nature, so she drew using her imagination and the photos her friends and relatives took.

Her favorite work is a little girl who runs with passion on the Chaka Salt Flats, known as China’s “Mirror of Heaven”. She called it “aspiration.”

“The little girl is me,” Zhang said.

She now runs an online shop, Lili’s Easel, where her works are for sale. To date she has sold more than 200 paintings.

An exhibition of her works was recently held in Taiyuan, capital of north China’s Shanxi Province, and received wide acclaim.

She hopes that her paintings will be exhibited in different cities and that she can see the landscapes she has painted.

“In fact, my biggest wish is to hug my parents again because it was hard for them to support me all my life,” Zhang said.

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