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Prolific 11-year-old Painter Shares Earnings With Sick

Written By David D'Angelo on Wednesday, December 26, 2007 | 12/26/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Nice, her mother insists, is not a child prodigy. But at 11, she has become a prolific painter: She can finish five paintings in one night, spending 30 minutes on each piece.

What is more amazing to her parents and their Christian community is that the girl, who exhibited the "gift" after she was diagnosed with lupus, has been sharing her earnings from her paintings with the sick.

"That's what Jesus wants," the soft-spoken, chubby fifth grader explains shyly in an interview at the office of the Chosen Generation Christian Church in a crowded neighborhood in Tondo, Manila.

Since she picked up the brush in October 2006, Nice has painted 200 works, from scenery to abstract, and has done four exhibits in different venues in Manila. She has been giving away the proceeds ever since.

Not surprisingly, the abstract paintings of Nice, who was born to Christian parents, reads the Bible at night, and regularly attends Sunday service, were mostly about God and the Christian faith.

Her mother, who along with Nice asked not to be fully identified because the family wants to keep a low profile, says her daughter's encounter with the sick has inspired her to paint more so she could help raise money for the costly treatment of cancer patients.

"She learned that a lot of people are dying from leukemia due to lack of money. That's why she decided to do exhibits so she can give away the proceeds to the patients," she says.

Nice, who's enrolled at the Holy Heart Christian Academy in Manila, discovered her talent in the unlikeliest place: a hospital.

While confined at the Dr. Fe del Mundo Hospital in Quezon City for systemic lupus erythemathosus (SLE) in October last year, she copiously drew flowers and fruits on a sketch pad to entertain herself and the hospital staff.

She gave her first drawing of a flower with the message "Don't ever give up" to a young leukemic patient (who died days later), and posted the rest on the wall.
'It all started with lupus'

If a person has lupus, the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues. This can damage joints, skin, blood vessels and organs. The most common type of lupus is SLE, according to studies.

Seeing her growing interest in sketching, her parents next bought her a canvas and painting materials, and were amazed when she began mixing colors, and started to paint.

Her parents believed this was a "gift."

"It all started with lupus," says the mother, 33, a full-time secretary at the church. "And we believe that lupus is just one purpose to see the greater purpose beyond. If not for lupus, we would not discover that she could paint."

Nice's mother says her husband enrolled their daughter in a sketching class of artist Fernando Cena during the summer break when she was 7, but she did not attend the sessions regularly and did not produce anything then -- and for the next three years.
While she went back to Cena's class after she started to paint, she never had formal schooling in abstract, she adds.

Inspired by Jesus

Nice would continue to paint in her next eight confinements at the same hospital between October 2006 and February this year, producing 50 paintings for her first exhibit.

"I was inspired by Jesus. I just paint what came to mind," Nice says when asked how she learned how to paint abstract.

"She drew and painted to keep the pain away. The more her joints in the hands hurt (one of the symptoms), the more she painted," her mother says. "It's the faith in her heart that keeps her moving on."

In her first exhibit at their church in Tondo in May, she sold some P140,000 worth of paintings, an amount she divided among eight cancer patients, all members of their church.

Among those sold was an abstract of "The Mother and Child," which fetched P35,000.
After her exhibit, she was never admitted to the hospital again, but she continued to get a checkup and take her daily dose of medicines. She resumed her painting at night in their home in Sampaloc, Manila.

"That was one amazing thing that happened after her first exhibit," her mother says.

A blessing to others

"When she saw the purpose why she was stricken with lupus, that she has to paint to be a blessing to others, she wasn't confined anymore. She saw herself as the Lord's instrument to serve others," she adds.

In her second exhibit of another 50 paintings at the Dr. Fe del Mundo Hospital in August, she sold P40,000 worth of paintings, the bulk of which went to their church and the Leukemic Indigents Fund Endowment (LIFE), an NGO that supports leukemia patients.

She kept the rest to pay for her expenses on painting materials.

Nice followed this up with a third exhibit of another batch of 50 paintings in September at the 700 Club Asia in Makati City, where she earned more than P15,000 from the sales.

Painting a life's story

The proceeds were divided among the 700 Club, their church, and Nice.
"It's not the painting that counts here, it's the painter. It's her life's story. They buy her painting because they're touched by her. She's sick and yet she's trying to help others," her mother says.

Some of the buyers were bank and company executives, lawyers, and even a justice.
Her mother says the family always supports whatever she decides to do with her paintings, and that it helps that other groups are ready to tie up with her in all her exhibits.

On Saturday, Nice threw a party for over 200 children from three poor areas in Tondo at their church compound, and gave away gifts which she bought with the P8,000 earnings from her fourth exhibit in Pasig City last week, and which she solicited from church members.

"When Christmas comes, they're the least happy," she says.

Nice says she just wants to bring joy to the poor. And that's how nice she is.

By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

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