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July 27, 2021, 2:12 am

Life of the talented painter who draws by his mouth

(11:21:43 AM 27/10/2012)
( - Until now, Do Minh Tam could not remember that horrific accident. From a young, tall, healthy man with many dreams and aspirations, suddenly Tam became disabled.


Then he fell in love with painting. As his limbs have no strength, he can only paint by his mouth.

Sitting on an auto wheelchair, Tam took reporters to visit his “studio” that is located under the stairwell of the Chap Canh Center. In the studio, there is a rather strange sketch - a face associated with leaves and flowers, at the bottom of the sketch is the image of a small painter who is holding a brush in his mouth.

Tam was born in Thanh Hoa province. Since childhood, he heard that he was just adopted. His adoptive father was a veteran and his adoptive mother was a babysitter. Graduating from high school, Tam joined the army. After returning from military service, Tam went to Saigon to start his business. He did a lot of jobs, hoping to save enough money to marry a girl and settle down in this land but then disaster struck.

One summer night in 2001, Tam drove his motorbike home after a tiring day of work. Then suddenly everything crashed down on him. When he woke up, he did not remember how the accident occurred. He  just knew that its consequences were devastating. His spine was broken and lost feeling of the whole body, from the neck to the feet. For almost two years, doctors worked hard to save Tam.

Then, his father died. Not wanting to burden his old mother, Tam did not contact her again to hide his illness. In his patient record, he noted himself as "having no relatives." For that reason, the Sung Chinh Hospital (now the HCM City Center for Trauma - Orthopedic) sent him to the Chap Canh Center, where the people with disabilities live and work.

The painting worth $7,000

After selecting all sorts of training to learn but failing, Tam decided to study painting. As he could not hold the brush by hand, he used his mouth. 

Drawing by mouth, of course, is extremely difficult. It took him a lot of time and effort to be able to "hold" a brush, and even more time to master the basic techniques in painting. But the desire to live has inspired Tam to overcome adversity. Tam’s brush is also different: the lower part of big palms always includes a layer of soft rubber so that when he "bites" it, his mouth will not be hurt.

In October 2010, Tam’s painting "The turning point" won the first prize in a painting competition organized by the German Government in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. 

Since then, the name Do Minh Tam and his paintings, drawn by mouth, has drawn the attention of painting collectors. Tam’s works when being brought overseas are usually captioned "orally" (painted by mouth) and they are sold at very high prices compared to the purchase price in Vietnam.

Tam said that a few days ago a journalist told him that one of his paintings had traveled from France to Australia, then to America where it was sold at $7,000. 

When asking Tam about the name of the painting, Tam laughed and said: "I do not know what picture it is. Well, I’m glad to hear that my paintings are appreciated. I do not need much money. I only use a small part of income from selling paintings to buy colors and brushes; the remaining is donated for charity."

Tam’s greatest desire is to open an exhibition. And if his paintings are sold well, he will spend the money to build a nursery school in his homeland, where he has not returned for over ten years.
Compiled by Mai Anh (VietNamNet Bridge)

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