After surviving a car accident in 1987, Chang Yung-ming (張永銘) has been paralyzed from the neck down. Though he wallowed in self pity at the time, thinking of himself as “good for nothing,” his wife, Huang Ying-chen (黃盈臻), stayed by his side and encouraged him to take up oil painting.
Recently invited to the Presidential Office for a meeting with Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), who bought one of his paintings, Chang said that learning to paint using his teeth had given him a new beginning.
Chang, who prior to his accident worked as an interior designer, injured his spine in a collision with a truck when he was 24 years old, leaving him -paralyzed in both arms and legs.
With an eight-month-old baby and a newlywed, Chang felt as if the world had come crashing down upon him.
Chang could do nothing all day except lie in bed in his home in Yuanlin Township (員林), Changhua County.
Unable to move, Chang relied on his wife for rehabilitation and personal hygiene. Chang’s situation improved in 2004 when he regained the ability to turn in bed by himself, though he still could not move his limbs.
After learning of an oil painting class opened by the Association of Spinal Cord Injury of Changhua, Huang encouraged her husband to give it a try. Chang went and his first creation was titled Portrait of Kuanyin.
“I wanted it to be perfect. I started and stopped many times in between until I lost inspiration. I even went to Longshan Temple in Lugang (鹿港) and prayed to Kuanyin,” Chang said, referring to the goddess of mercy.
Six months afterwards, Chang finished the painting, placing it in the living room of his house. Even though he was offered a handsome sum of money for it, Chang said he couldn’t bear to part with his creation.
Since that moment, Chang’s interest in painting has continued to grow, as have his skills.
Discussing his “slow painting” theory, Chang said that paintings that normally took others hours to complete took him months. Choosing finer brushes, Chang insists on delivering quality paintings that -involve meticulous work.
Although painting is a difficult skill to master, this is what allowed him to overcome his difficulties, he said.
“Every stroke goes further to bring out the spirit of the object being painted,” Chang said.
Now 48 years old, Chang said that prior to his accident and for a few years afterwards, his life mostly consisted of watching the days pass. Following his accident, he found the true meaning of life, he said, adding that he was fortunate to have had such a devoted wife at his side.
“God may have played a cruel joke on me, but by taking it with a grain of salt, I’ve resuscitated my life and given myself value again,” Chang said.