Updated  
August, 10 2014 03:21:00

Portrait painter overcomes disability

More than talent: Chu Vinh Duc is patient and determined, qualities that helped him achieve fame. — VNS Photo Hung Le

Despite suffering from a physical handicap, Chu Vinh Duc found success as a portrait painter. His proudest moment: painting a portrait of General Giap, which the general later signed. Hung Le reports.

On his wheelchair, Chu Vinh Duc, 35, moves around his small room worrying about his paintings, mixing colours, taking papers, framing his paintings and talking with his customers.

Seeing the brisk activities, nobody can believe Duc suffers from paralysis.

His childhood was peaceful. He was born in Vinh City, the central province of Nghe An, and his parents were state workers. Although no one from his family was a professional, destiny had a career in mind for him. Since he was very young, he showed an aptitude for painting and captured everything around on his canvas.

However, when Duc was five years old, he suffered paralysis in both legs. The illness sent his life in another direction. His parents were deeply troubled as they realised he would be bedridden for life. All his dreams and hopes about a bright future seemed to have ended.

Duc could not go to school regularly like his friends. Although he spent more time at the hospital than in the school, he found a way to self study. He asked his parents to buy textbooks and began studying at home, along with painting. One good thing was that Duc acquired the knowledge quickly.

"I asked my friends and neighbours to explain to me what I did not understand," he said.

Thanks to his hard work, he completed the curriculum for 12th graders. While many of his friends applied for the university entrance exam, Duc, well aware of his condition launched his dream of becoming a painter.

Duc's way of achieving that dream was to work really hard, and he learnt by himself most of the time.

At first, Duc did not have any idea about layout, colours and cubes. In his spare time he drew passionately without any boundaries or restrictions.

During his treatment in HCM City, his father and he came across a workshop on painting by someone called Hanh, and had no hesitation in registering for the workshop. The painter, on seeing the boy with crutches, shook his head and said, "I did not intend to train anyone."

On hearing this, Duc, instead of getting disheartened, asked Hanh if he would let him into the workshop to see him paint. Realising the boy's great will and energy, painter Hanh was touched and took him on as his student.

"The luckiest thing in my life was that I found my painting teacher," he said.

Under the guidance of the professional painter, Duc acquired knowledge quickly and made his teacher proud of his intelligence and remarkable will hidden in the handicapped body.

After a short time studying, Duc knew the basic principles of fine arts.

He returned home in 2000 and opened a painting workshop on Nguyen Truong To Street in Vinh City.

At first he drew portraits and then copied paintings. His reputation spread and the name and reputation of painter Chu Vinh Duc began to spread. A painting, which left the biggest impression on him, was the portrait of General Vo Nguyen Giap with Giap's signature below.

He completed the portrait ,based on a photograph of General Giap, in 10 days and it was brought to Ha Noi to be signed by the general.

"This was the most unforgettable moment of my life as a painter," he said.

Magnum opus: Painting this portrait of General Vo Nguyen Giap left a huge impression on the painter.

Besides painting, Duc is also known as a translator and a teacher of English.

When he was studying painting in HCM City, many foreigners ordered his paintings but his capacity to communicate in English was limited. He then decided to study English and that created a great opportunity for him to set up his own business in his hometown.

Thanks to his knowledge of English, he had a number of achievements to his credit with the Vinh City Disabled Association. In 2002, he was chosen as the only representative of Nghe An to attend the International Asia and Pacific Regional Conference for Persons with Disability held in Osaka, Japan.

At the conference, he was the interpreter for the Vietnamese delegation.

In July, 2012, representatives of an American fund-raising programme also asked him to work as an interpreter when they visited Nghe An.

There was more happiness for the painter, when a pretty 24-year-old girl, Ngo Thanh Huyen, agreed to become his wife as she had total admiration for Duc's talent and efforts.

Their relationship went through a lot of turmoil because Huyen's parents objected to it. They were afraid that Huyen would be unhappy and restricted if she married a man who was himself physically challenged.

But their love weathered all opposition and Huyen's parents agreed on their marriage in 2010 and at present, she is her husband's best support and assistant.

Talking about what he has achieved so far, Duc smiles and says, "I'm not proficient, I just tried my best and was patient." — VNS

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