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Faisal RUSDI

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Painting Style:Mouth Painter

With a paint brush in his mouth and his expressive eyes scanning the canvas, Faisal Rusdi livens up his dismal, five-by-three-meter workroom. Lying on the floor, he starts to paint, stroke by stroke, in different hues and shades.

"Art is my life. It has always been a part of me," he says with pride, as a picture begins to emerge on the canvas.

"I'm very fortunate to have had parents who understand, and who always encouraged me to find my inner talent and share my wondrous gift with the world."

Faisal, who was born with cerebral palsy, discovered his artistic talent after finishing Junior High School at age 16.

"I learnt that I have a passion for painting. Once my father recognized my dream, he did everything he could get me into an art school, where I would be accepted like any other student."

In 1995, his unique talent won him a scholarship to study drawing and painting.

Faisal, 34, appreciates what his father did for him - and for his two brothers and two sisters - and has missed him dearly ever since he passed away in 2007. "We were all in shock, but I have accepted the reality," he laments.

Faisal married Cucu Saidah a year ago. "I met my wife at a center in Bandung that promotes an independent living philosophy." He says the center has inspired him to live his life by believing in himself and what he can do.

Faisal recollects his mother's stories of how the family reacted to his condition. "Cerebral palsy is a disorder in the brain, which has affected me since birth. My hands and feet are immobile - paralyzed."

His parents pursued various treatments over the year until, when he was nine, they were advised to get Faisal for physiotherapy and send him to a special school. "The therapies did not work," he added, smiling.

This did not stop Faisal from living his dreams. "I slowly accepted my condition and came to realize I can do what I want to do," he says, adding, "It was not all that easy."

It was not easy getting used to painting with his mouth, he said, recounting that he often coughed because of the waft of pungent paint fumes. "Now, I am used to the smell."

Faisal attributes his confidence to his parents. "They told me to think, decide, have will and believe in myself. I can now live independently because of their faith that one day I would be able to go from being *disabled' to being *able and independent'."

His parents encouraged him to choose his friends, his ambitions and his strengths. "They allowed me to lead," he added.

Photo courtesy of Faisal Rusdi

Faisal's favorite color is blue. "When I see the color blue, I see Heaven," he shares. "It is the color of humility and romance and it allows me to relax."

But life has not always been so vibrantly colorful for Faisal. Hard times in Jakarta drove him and his wife to Solo, Central Java, earlier this year, as basic necessities are more affordable there. The couple now owns their home in Solo.

Faisal's first inspiration was a painting by Indonesian artist Barli, which he came across at the Barli Museum in Bandung, West Java. Currently, his favorites are works by Basuki Abdullah, an Indonesian painter who was murdered at 78, and the late Affandi, an expressionist painter whose works are exhibited worldwide.

He also admires works by Rembrandt and Picasso. Stacked in a corner of his workroom are books cataloging great artists. "I have book which includes all of Picasso's works," he says proudly.

Faisal likes to paint landscapes, people and symbols of their spirituality; the positive side of every being in the world, rich or poor, able or otherwise.

"Believe in life, believe in the harmony around you, enjoy the simplicity and beauty of nature, but most importantly, pray," he asserts, as he paints another blue line on the canvas.

Owing to its purity, nature - birds in particular - is his favorite theme. "Nature is a gift from the God," he says.

Faisal produces four works per month. One, a landscape painting, is sent to a multi-national agency in Switzerland where it is reproduced on greeting cards, calendars and memo pads. The other three oil paintings are displayed at the Galeri Lukis Semar Mesem (Semar Museum Gallery) in Solo.

Gallery owner and teacher Edy Sunarno appreciates Faisal's dedication and style. "He is an inspiration to me and to my students. Faisal is a modern-day Van Gogh, with his light brush styles and vibrant choice of colors."

Similarly, foot artist and friend Patricia JG Saerang, who introduced an agency of disabled artists to Faisal, says, "Faisal works hard and is focused on all he does. I remember him painting for hours and hours."

The foot and mouth painters celebrate their creativity at the Jakarta Center, which aims to provide an opportunity for artists like Faisal and Patricia to sell their work.

When asked what he thinks about charity? "Charity," he says, "is positive when people bestow something of their own for another person's growth."

Faisal says it is not enough that charitable souls give cash without following-up on the progress of the needy. "The aim should be to help the disabled or poor become educated and gain the skills needed to work for a living."

He says that charity becomes negative when it is done for the sole purpose making oneself feel good about having helped someone, and seeing the needy as objects and not as subjects, which hinders the personal growth of these citizens.

According to the Asia-Pacific Development Center for Disability (APCD), 43 percent of school-aged children with disabilities do not attend school in Indonesia.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 10 percent of the world's population is disabled.

Regardless, Faisal remains hopeful.

Does he consider himself successful? "I see myself as somewhat successful, but there is definitely room for a better life. Nevertheless, I am thankful for what I have now."

He says he would like to have a consistent collector of his work, a permanent gallery and regular exhibitions of his paintings. In the future he sees himself helping fellow handicapped people receive an education, work for a living and participate in workshops aimed to increase self worth.

Who is his hero? "My father."

"He picked me up and brought me to a higher level. I owe everything to him - my confidence, my spirituality and the discovery of my talent. I wish I could be a hero to others as he was to me."

Paintings of Faisal RUSDI
by Faisal Rusdi
Tai Chi
by Faisal Rusdi
Simple Stripes
by Faisal Rusdi
by Faisal Rusdi
Minars Reflection in a Waterbody
by Faisal Rusdi
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"Your association 'IMFPA' is a blessed one. Every artist is Unique here and the painting done by them comes from their heart, against all the odds they excel in their talent is amazing. My heart goes out for all of them and I will have them in my prayers. May the almighty bring all the happiness in life for them. "
- Sheela Sharma

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