It is 9am, and in a corner of the studio, Vicky Chan Sze-man has already begun to paint. The 36-year-old artist with autism and intellectual disability focuses on her work and does not talk much. Asked what her favourite colour is, she replies: “Black, white, grey, blue, yellow …” Chan, who works with i-dArt Space, has a similarly long list of things she likes to paint: “Fish, rabbits, flowers …” i-dArt stands for “i do different art”. The community space, affiliated with charitable organisation Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, promotes social inclusion in Hong Kong by encouraging people with different abilities to participate in art. Bellini Yu, who helps run i-dArt and facilitate Chan’s development, says the painter has been working there for six years since she took an art course organised by Tung Wah. Chan enjoys painting so much that she now spends half of her time working on her artwork at home and in the studio, while working part-time at a bakery. “She is not good at expressing her feelings in words, but her perseverance and long attention span enable her to excel at painting,” Yu says. Wheelchair-using HKU student Josy Chow fights rare disease, pushes for drug and chases dream of being an author in English Chan paints mainly with acrylics. Her work, characterised by rich colours and structured composition, has won critical acclaim both locally and abroad. She is one of the nominees for the South China Morning Post ’s Spirit of Hong Kong Awards this year. Her name was put forward by Tung Wah in the Overcoming Personal Challenge category. The award honours people who have embarked on inspirational journeys to achieve their dreams. Chan draws her inspiration from a wide range of subjects, such as animals, plants, buildings, means of transport, natural landscapes and even television broadcasts in Hong Kong. Once she has decided to paint something, Chan immerses herself in the work. She takes photographs of the subject, does research on the internet, jots down her ideas and plans, makes a sketch and fixes the date for actual painting. Yu says Chan used to have emotional problems, but the painter gradually learned to control herself as she worked on her art. The instructor describes Chan as a highly motivated student. In 2013, Chan completed on her own a huge mural series in the building where the community art space is located. “She even curates and arranges her own work at art exhibitions, while many of her peers still need help,” Yu says. Chan’s animal portraits are popular commercially, with some being used by top brands in designs for their product packaging and stationery.