First published in the (now defunct) Weekender magazine Penang 1985
The world of artist Joseph Scully revolves around blue clouds and hills, colourful kites, rice paddies and farmers, holy saints, kampungs and rural scenes. Stricken with polio at birth and unable to walk and go places like his more fortunate brethren, Joseph is undeterred. Instead of being helpless and inactive he puts his fertile imagination to work. He roams the hills and traverse the land, and in his mind’s eye there is abundant beauty and happiness.
Joseph puts his feelings and imagination down on canvas and greeting cards with the help of the Penang Spastic Association. “I like to paint Malay kampungs and rural scenes because it is the easiest for me to do,” says Joseph. “I paint them from my imagination and I feel good when I am painting. And I get money when people buy them, that makes me happy. With the money I can buy tapes. I don’t watch television much but I like listening to music.
“I don’t have a special place to work. Sometimes I paint inside the house, sometimes outside on the porch and whenever people ask me to draw I will draw.
The Spastic Center provides me with the materials. They come about every two weeks and collect my works and sell them for me. After deducting the cost of the materials, they give me the balance. My busiest time is during the festive seasons like Christmas and New Year when there is great demand for my greeting cards.
“Sometimes friends come and ask me to paint their portrait from the photographs they supply.This involves copying and enlarging from the photographic print. I am not very good in portrait drawing of this sort. I feel happiest when I am painting from imagination.I don’t go out very often as you can see my legs are useless. Once in a while, friends come and take me out to the seaside or the youth park. I don’t go to church because of my condition but the priest comes to our home every Sunday.”
Born 33 years ago, Joseph Scully is the 6th in a family of seven brothers and sisters (six boys and a girl). He attended school at the Penang Spastic Centre from the age of 9 until he was 21. Despite being in school for many years, he says that he cannot read very well because the training he got from the spastic school is mostly in handicraft work and vocational in nature. There is little academic study, not much book learning as he put it.
He learnt about art from an art teacher at the spastic school but basically he is self-taught and it is his lively imagination and courage that drives him to paint and draw.
Having a very fragile body and a pair of ‘match-stick-like’ legs which impede his movement, the artist gets around his house in a wheel cart which he designed and built with the help of friends. the special cart has a lever when activated lifts the seat up about six inches and this enables him to enter the house which is at a higher level than the porch.
Leaving the cart outside, Joseph moves about the house by using his hands to push the seat which is built on wheels. It is his design – very clever and innovative. Despite his handicap and condition he smiles often when he is teased by his friends who drop n to share a joke or two.
Joseph has locks of thick wavy hair and strong eyes and an expressive and sensitive face. He lives with his parents and uncle, surrounded by brothers, sisters and nieces at Jalan Evergreen, Penang.
If you happened to be around the neighbourhood, drop by to see the artist and admire his work. you will also be bringing cheers and encouragement to a courageous fellow being and talented artist.
Author’s Update: Joseph Scully passed away on 23 Dec 2004, two days before Christmas. “He knew he was going to see the Lord,” says his uncle Leandle Jeremiah. “He told the family not to take down the Christmas decoration and continue the festive cheers as usual. Courageous and considerate to the very end, Joseph is sadly missed by friends and the Eurasian community of Penang.