Determined to be seen for who she is and what she can do and not for her condition, Beryl Hanlon has used her incredible artistic eye to fast establish herself as a true Riverina treasure.
Hailing from a family of artists, the 59-year-old was born with creativity running through her blood, but being diagnosed with cerebral palsy made it difficult for her to pursue it at first thought.
The motor disability causes muscle weakness or problems and has severely limited Beryl's hand function, but it has never dimmed her spirit or taken away her love of colour and creativity.
At 15, Beryl was introduced to the world of mouth painting by her teacher and was then introduced to her painting career as a student member of the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (MFPA).
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Growing up in Cootamundra, Beryl had to attend school in Sydney, but has become a well-known icon across the region.
"I always felt I wanted to paint or draw, I just had to find a different way to be able to do it," she said.
"I took to it straight away. It was amazing. It felt like the first time I could truly express myself creatively.
"I tried painting with my foot first, but I didn't have enough control of it."
From landscapes to portraits, Beryl takes inspiration from almost anything, with her artwork having been shown all over the world over the last 30 years.
"Most people find it hard to believe I paint with my mouth," she said.
With a passion for putting her best foot forward and embracing herself fully, Beryl hopes to show people what she is capable of, with many people's first impressions of her often around her condition.
"I want people to enjoy my work for what it is," she said.
"It goes to show that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.
"Cerebral palsy hasn't stopped me from doing anything in my life, certainly not painting."
As a member of the MFPA, which was established in Europe by a group of artists with disabilities, Beryl hasn't only made a name for herself but has been able to make a living.
"From selling my artwork, I have a house, I have a mortgage," she said.
"These are all things people don't expect from me because of my condition."
The MFPA gains income through the sale of products illustrated with their paintings and although this started with Christmas cards, today it includes a wide list of products ranging from special occasion cards, jigsaws, tea sets, address books, calendars, Christmas serviettes and placemats, gift tags and wrapping paper.
Beryl's paintings have been included in MFPA products many times.
Next week, some of Beryl's artwork will be displayed in Wagga for community members to see.
"There's a bit of everything, there's some new, never before seen work and there are some pieces that had been all over the world," she said.
Beryl's art will be displayed at The Gardens, located at 43 Tom Wood Drive, on Saturday and Sunday, July 29 and July 30, between 10am and 5pm.
Entry into the exhibition is free.
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