Zhang Junli, a 40-year-old artist from Taiyuan, Shanxi province, China, is inspiring millions of people with her dedication to her craft and by living life to the fullest.
Zhang suffers from rheumatoid arthritis
, a long-term condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints of the body instead of foreign substances like viruses or bacteria.
She was first diagnosed at age 6, according to Shine
Zhang did not become totally paralyzed until the age of 8 when she lost 90% of her body’s joint function and has been bedridden ever since. At age 10, she was forced to start planning for her future.
Zhang started drawing as a pastime at an early age but did not jump into oil painting until three years ago.
She developed her skills further in 2015 with the instruction of a professional teacher, and has since made more than 300 paintings with half of it already sold out on her WeChat store “Lily’s Easel.”
“Painting transformed me,”
Zhang told the Daily Mail
. “The first time I picked up a brush, it’s as if I have found my calling. I felt that I lived to draw.”
“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.
“I sold my last painting this morning,” Zhang continued. “I can’t believe this. I am so touched by everyone’s support. It truly feels like a dream!”
While she can no longer move most of her body, Zhang still manages to find a way to do what she loves by wedging a paintbrush between her paralyzed fingers.
“I can move my hip, shoulders and neck a little. Other than that, I can’t move at all,” she said.
The transition was not very easy for Zhang. Her wrists were completely stiff, and she had to find a way to hold the brush using her thumb and index finger while angling her shoulder and applying the right pressure on the canvas.
Neighbors would come to visit Zhang and ask “what’s going to happen to this poor child?” Crying was the only response her mother could give.
“It was sad to see my mother like that,” the artist said. “I’m just paralyzed – I’m not dead.”
Despite her hardship, Zhang still keeps a positive outlook on life. Besides painting, which takes about a week to 12 days to complete, she also authored four books under her name — three fictions and one autobiography.
“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,” Zhang added. “Live in the present.”