This story is part of a series of articles published as an exclusive editorial exchange between China Press for People with Disabilities/Spring Breeze and ABILITY Magazine
living with a disability may have a trace of longing. People with
physical challenges may find travel difficult, the deaf cannot hear
the voice of a loved one, and the blind cannot see the rainbow. For
the latter, however, a recent program helped them step into a world
of enhanced senses, broadening the circle of humanity.
It was one afternoon last December, when five visually impaired musicians
from the China Disabled Art Troupe Project arrived at a rehearsal
hall in Beijing, and were invited to use a calligraphy brush to write
out their names, and then they created artwork by infusing their dreams
onto a multi-colored oil painting, while becoming part of a unique
The first dip in ink, the first time using a brush, the first time
drawingall of these baby steps eased them out of their darkness,
and sparked the spirit of creation. To a professional artist, a simple
scribble is not worth noting. But to them, it was an invaluable effort.
With their hands full of colors, they declared, The imperfect
life is harmonious.
Saxophone player Zhang Lijuan, 18, from Yangzhou in Chinas Jiangsu
Province, lost his sight when his retinas were damaged by a high fever
when he was 3 years old. During the workshop, he created a piece called
The Beauty of Nature.
I was there as a representative of the publication, San Yue Feng,
that day and interviewed Zhang, and some of the other artists, about
the work they created.
Bai Fan: What are you drawing?
Zhang Lijuan: This painting is of the whole natural world. I crave
freedomsun, ocean, trees, and forests that are filled with grasslands
Bai: In your drawing, you included the beach. Why is that?
Zhang: If there is ocean then there should be beach. There also should
be birds flying down from the sky. I didnt draw them flying
down, but instead drew them beside the beach so that they could rest,
play and look at the trees and grass.
Bai: What is the green color on the bottom?
Zhang: Grass. On top of that is forest. The black color is dirt and
there are lots of trees on top of that. All the trees are recently
planted, thats why theyre green. This is in contrast to
my very bright, white inner world.
Bai: You chose not to draw any people.
Zhang: Because these things are the true beauties of nature. If there
were people, then it would not be
Bai: Whom do you want to give this drawing to?
Zhang: Im not too satisfied with it, so I wouldnt want
to give it away. But I would want to hang it somewhere. There were
a lot of three-dimensional feelings that I did not know how to draw.
Tan Weihai, 25, who is also from Yangzhou, became blind as a result
of medication his mother took to treat a cold while he was still in
the womb. He started learning music at the age of 12, and during the
workshop created a piece called Dream.
Bai: Did you enjoy this experience?
Tan Weihai: Drawing is a lot of fun. I was inspired by a song of mine
called Dream. Music, literature and drawing, to an extent,
all convey a common feature. For example, when playing a sad song,
if you have reached a certain height [of emotion], people will know
the feelings you are trying to convey.
Bai: Tell me more about Dream.
Tan: The Dream is the desert because I dont know
how to get there and I feel helpless. I see a blue riverI
live in the countryside where the river is clear and in the summertime,
it is very cooling. Hence, I am sitting at the riverside in my dreams,
thinking about how I would get out. Next, I drew a path, which represents
that I am constantly running. My goal is to let my hands touch the
Bai: I heard you like blue?
Tan: When I was little, I could see a little bit. The water was very
clear, like the color of the chives we grew at our home.
Bai: What is the hardest part about drawing?
Tan: I cant see, so things that are too detailed seem complicated.
Hence, I use my hand to draw, which is better than painting with a
Bai: If you were asked to give this drawing to a person, whom would
you give it to?
Tan: I would give it to a Braille teacher at school. He helped me
get from the countryside to the city; he helped me go to school, to
start playing the flute, and even taught me to put my fingers on the
holes of the instruments. He also explained how to read maps by pointing
out places like Beijing, Tianjin, Jiangsu and other cities.
Saxophonist Wang Qi, 30, from Dalian, lost his sight at 13, owing
to an accident. Zhu Li, 26, of Shanghai, had congenital cataracts
with subtle visual sensitivity to light. He is a singer and plays
the erhu, a two-stringed bowed musical instrument, sometimes called
a Chinese violin in the Western world. They collaborated
on the work, The Dining Table At Home. Wang Qi talked
about some of his influences:
Bai: Today is the first time that you picked up a pen to draw. How
does it feel? What did you two draw?
Wang Qi: A cozy home.
Bai: Why did you choose that theme?
Wang Qi: Because in all my visual memories, home has left the deepest
impression in me, including all the things at my house right now.
They are all objects I have seen and used when I could see. I know
where they are located, because Mom and Dad have not moved them.
Bai: What are the two containers in the drawing?
Wang Qi: Empty bowls. And the thing that looks like an apple core
is a goblet with red wine inside. I did not want this one bowl to
be empty. Itd be best if there were warm rice inside of it,
but there was no place to put it.
Bai: You originally wanted to draw an airplane, right?
Wang Qi: Yes, but airplanes are not three-dimensional enough, there
is a curve plus two side wings. Tables are relatively more three-dimensional,
although they are more difficult to draw, and even more so when there
are things on top. But Im willing to draw it. A table is something
from home. At the foot of the table, there is a cat. But it does not
look like one. Originally, the whiskers were supposed to be sideways
and the ears were supposed to be pointy.
Bai: What is the hardest part about drawing?
Wang Qi: When you start out putting your thoughts on paper, you dont
know what the results will be. Even to draw a simple straight line,
one hand has to stay steady and not move for even a simple yellow
line, and the other hand has to finish drawing from beginning to end.
Wang Bin, 22, from Shandong, has a congenital visual disability. He
plays the jinghu, a Chinese bowed string instrument with a high pitch.
His work, Symphony of Destiny is like his music, with
hints of abstraction and randomness.
Bai: Have you ever drawn before?
Wang Bin: When I was little I used crayons, but I dont remember
what I drew nor did I pay much attention to it then.
Bai: What are you drawing there?
Wang Bin: To the left is a violin, to the right is a house with a
tree, at the top is a wild goose. The details in my head are clear:
a birds eyes, nose, mouth, wings etc. But the moment I pick
up my pen, I have a bad feeling about the drawing. There is a violin
to the left, but I suddenly start thinking about Beethovens
Symphony of Fate, ching, ching, chingout goes three
dots on top, one yellow line on the bottom.
Bai: You play the jinghu, why do you like to draw the violin?
Wang Bin: The structure of a jinghu is very simple. I want to draw
an instrument that is more complicated to reflect my painting technique.
Bai: Do you find painting difficult?
Wang Bin: If I want to express everything that is in my heart, then
making everything remarkably true to life is difficult. The colors,
contours and lines are first created by a pen and then smudged by
hand to see how the colors look. The sketchpad is too big, which gives
me a bad sense of direction with it.
Bai: What have you gained?
Wang Bin: Ive learned that drawing and music are very similar.
They do not necessarily have to represent something. You can paint
something abstract and random. I will try painting more variety of
things later on.
Liu Tao, 25, has congenital cataracts with slight light perception.
He grew up in Beijing and started learning accordion at 5 and picked
up violin two years later. He also plays the sheng, a mouth-blown,
free-reed instrument consisting of vertical pipes. His artwork was
called The Imperfect Life Is A Balanced Life.
Bai: What is your favorite color?
Liu Tao: Blue because it represents limitless desire and fantasy,
and it also represents open and refreshing feelings.
Bai: Your paintings are unique, talk about your ideas.
Liu: The ocean seen in the painting represents vastness and the lotus
flower represents growing out of mud but staying pure and unstained.
And the Buddha statue is sitting majestically above it all. But even
though Buddha is sitting on top of the lotus flower, he cannot separate
himself from the vastness of the ocean, or the stainlessness of the
Bai: Does this painting have anything to do with your music?
Liu: The curvy strings beside me represent my simple understanding
of music. The smaller dots represent slight fluctuations, the bigger
dots represent greater fluctuations. The three triangles I painted
later on represent the sudden temperamental changes in strength. The
parallel lines represent stability.
I imagine blue as the vastness of the ocean, growing from somewhere
very narrow to somewhere vast. If we compare it to life then it means
as we live, the road grows wider and wider with good opportunities.
The curvy strings also have another meaning, which is the crippled
world. I also added parallel strings on the bottom to show that even
though life is not perfect, there is still a kind of balance. This
includes the natural order of things because there is so much imperfection
and abnormalitythis is the reason why there is equality. If
all the strings were straight, we would feel like there is something
Bai: Why do you like Buddha?
Liu: Buddha represents a vast and unrestricted realm. This is also
how I view life; if you face life with a smile then it will be beautiful.
You can read
the full magazine, including all of the photos in our Digi issue,
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Video - Pre-showing of Chinese Artists with Disabilities Exibition 2015
from the Gary
Nao Robot for Education
China Art Project
Gary Busey Lifes Apprentice
Billy Mclaughlin Music Focal
EARN Internships &
Rings Born to Act
in the Gary Busey Issue; Senator HarkinThe Reality of Restraints;
Ashley Fiolek Surprise!; Humor Better Things to Do;
Geri Jewell Red Carpet; China Limitless Art; Long Haul
Paul Two Weeks Notice; CSUN Wonders of Technology;
Special Olympics Spread the Word; Doug Henry A Day in
the Dirt; Nao Robot for Education; Music Focal Dystonia;
Gary Busey Lifes Apprentice; Rings Born to Act;
EARN Internships & Mentoring; ABILITY's Crossword Puzzle;
Events and Conferences...