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Story of Successful Foot Painter in HK
Twenty-eight-year-old Lo Pui Yung was born armless. Yet, she is a proliferate painter. Besides, she has two jobs -- one as a graphic designer for a local company in Hong Kong, and another as a painter for the Liechtenstein-based Mouth and Foot Painting Association.

Lo is one of the two renowned disabled painters in Hong Kong that use their dexterous feet and toes to paint, and so far, she managed to have her masterpieces displayed in three different exhibitions in the past 14 years of studying the art. Lo joined the association in 1992 and has been receiving a monthly income of a few thousand Hong Kong dollars from the association since.

The association has a Hong Kong office, registered as the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Limited, which aids in submitting the two artists' work to the headquarters in Liechtenstein, where a seven-member jury adjudicates to select the top of the cream received from its 50 branch offices in various parts of the world in a bid to translate them into profit.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua Friday, Lo showed Xinhua a series of her most beloved pieces, mostly pastel warm-colored watercolor pieces on tranquil country landscapes, such as those featuring the swaying willow trees over the vista of the calm sea, or Chinese ink paintings on the auspicious Chinese Spring Festival motifs of golden carps, as well as the traditional favorite of Chinese mountains and sea. Works such as these are regularly submitted to the association, from which she receives a monthly income. Lo said recently, the association favors more watercolor pieces.

"The formation of the Association in 1956 gave all members the opportunity to completely support themselves through sales of their paintings reproduced as birthday cards, blessing cards, thank you cards, calendars, monthly planners, framed prints, boxed note lets, address books, jigsaw puzzles, Christmas and New Year cards and other items," said Katie Chan, executive secretary of the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Limited in Hong Kong.

"Disabled people are encouraged and helped financially to develop their work to our standard," she added.

Despite the association's unceasing funding of its artists, it does not push its artists to produce a fixed number of pieces within a period of time, according to Lo.

"The association did not require us to submit so many pieces of work during a year or half a year. I am free to submit however many I want.... But twice a year, the headquarters (in Liechtenstein) holds a selection round -- once before the Easter and another before Christmas. Then the art pieces will then filmed and made into slides for commercial purposes," she said, adding that so far, about seven pieces of her work have been selected for commercialization.

Lo Pui Yung's 14 years of studying with her painting teacher Emilie Chan is paying off and enables her to stand on her own feet, in the literal sense of the word, and turn out marvelous art work. Now, not only does she earn her income from her primary job as a computer graphics designer at a air-conditioning design company with her three year post-secondary computer graphics design training, but also she accepts painting orders privately and can earn as much as 1,500 Hong Kong dollars (192.3 US dollars) to 2,000 (256.4 dollars) each.

Lo first met Chan when Lo was studying for Fine Arts subject of the Form Five Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) 14 years ago. In a bid to excel in the examination, Lo followed Chan for private fine arts lessons.

Chan, an able-bodied teacher, who has taught three disabled painters so far, told Xinhua that her teaching experience with such students has been both a challenge and an inspiration to herself. "But I did not pick students because, as the Confucius saying goes, a teacher should 'provide education for all people without discrimination against their abilities or social status’,” she said.

Now Chan's hope is to hold an exhibition and write a book on Lo's life as an artist, as she has done for the other two disabled students. She was earlier seeking the sponsorship from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government's Arts Development Council and the Leisure and Cultural Service Department.

"Well, the 14-year teacher-student relation can be said to be an inseparable friendship. Together we've been taking the life journey in arts, though it's not been full of thorns and briers. But neither was it easy. Still it's been an unforgettable experience," she said.

Chan stressed that in writing the book, she would hope to set Lo as an example for the current generation of young people in Hong Kong.

When asked about what would be her most unforgettable experience if she were to tell her readers in a book about herself, Lo said that she has not really pondered such a question. She said she does not consider her life a predicament, rather a life full of grace from God.

Lo said she has always been grateful to air-conditioning design company employer that recruited her despite her weakness and has never discriminated against her. "On the contrary, the company has ever been giving me opportunities, I can only try my best and work to the best of my ability."

(Xinhua News Agency February 6, 2003)

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