Zhang Junli was just 6 years old when she first noticed trouble with her thumb and wrist.
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The artist, who lives in Taiyuan in northern China, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that affects the body’s joints. Within two years, the disease took over and left her paralyzed for life.
“I can move my hip, shoulders, and neck a little. Other than that, I can’t move at all,” she said. Zhang is now in her 40s and has spent 34 years unable to move most of her body. Yet no matter what obstacles she has faced, she’s always kept a positive outlook that is truly inspiring!
“The world is too beautiful,” she explained. “Even if I am in poor health, I don’t want to give up the opportunity to live.”
Zhang has always loved to draw. She is able to hold a pencil in her hand, and she creates an image by making tiny movements with her one working shoulder. Several years ago, she swapped her pencil for a paintbrush, and her life instantly changed for the better!
At first, she took lessons from a local oil painter to master her technique, and then she was off and running! In just three years, she painted over 300 oil masterpieces. She prefers to create beautiful scenes from nature, many of which she finds online or borrows from friends’ vacation photos.
Zhang eventually started a shop called “Lily’s Easel” on WeChat. Word about her incredible talent caused a buzz online, and people opened their wallets to collect art from such a gifted, inspiring individual. It didn’t take long before she had sold all 300 of her creations!
“I sold my last painting this morning,” she announced. “I can’t believe this. I am so touched by everyone’s support. It truly feels like a dream!”
Each of her paintings takes her between seven and 12 days to finish. When she’s not painting, Zhang can be found writing. She has written four books already, one autobiography and three novels. She hopes her success will remind others that anything is possible with hard work and perseverance.
“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. Live in the present.”
Wise words from a masterful artist! Zhang refuses to let anything keep her from leading a fulfilling life, and we could all take a page from her book.
Share her story to spread her message of living life to the fullest – no matter what!
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