Hailing from a family of artists, creativity is in Beryl’s blood. However, being diagnosed with cerebral palsy made it difficult for her to maintain the hand steadiness and control necessary for most creative endeavours. It wasn’t until her early teens that she first put a brush to canvas.
“My art teacher thought it might be worth putting the paintbrush in my mouth, so I gave it a go,” Beryl said. “I took to it straight away. It was amazing. It felt like the first time I could truly express myself creatively.”
Beryl knew then she had found her calling, and has spent the past 30 years honing her craft as an artist. She’s an incredibly versatile creator, painting everything from gloriously detailed landscapes to her sell-out Christmas cards each festive season. If unaware, you wouldn’t be able to tell that Beryl’s art isn’t hand-painted.
“Most people find it hard to believe I paint with my mouth. Once they get over the initial shock they usually tell me how special my ability is,” Beryl said.
“But I don’t think that way at all. Cerebral palsy hasn’t stopped me from doing anything in my life, certainly not painting.”
Beryl first began her painting career as a student member of the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA). Established in Europe in 1956 by a group of artists with disabilities, the organisation aimed to help mouth and foot artists make a living through their creative efforts. The Australian MFPA was created in 1971 with the same purpose.
“I’ve been able to make a good living from selling my artwork; I have a house, I have a mortgage. These are all things people don’t expect from me because of my condition,” Beryl added.
Having cerebral palsy hasn’t stopped Beryl from travelling around the world, taking up water skiing or moving to Sydney and back to her hometown of Cootamundra in rural NSW.
“It’s very important that people with disability have some sort of ‘out’. Mine is painting and going to the gym once a week. I love being fit and lifting weights, it’s a really good form of release,” Beryl said.
Just Better Care Murrumbidgee’s Lachlan assists Beryl to maintain her active lifestyle by providing transport and other forms of support. This enables Beryl to get to the gym and meet family and friends for coffee at a local café. She’s really up for anything and ready to conquer whatever challenges lie ahead, but there is one thing still on the wish list.
The only thing I haven’t been able to do is paint with my feet. And trust me, I’ve tried!”
See more of Beryl’s work and purchase her paintings at mfpa.com.au/artist/beryl-hanlon