Art and Rehabilitation

Art can be empowering and therapeutic for many, and we discovered recently that a handful of our clients under SPD's Transition Programme for Employment (TPE) have also incorporated art in [...]

Art can be empowering and therapeutic for many, and we discovered recently that a handful of our clients under SPD’s Transition Programme for Employment (TPE) have also incorporated art in their rehabilitation journey. Here are their stories and art pieces.

Madanlal Aitabir, 54 years old
Pencil sketching

Tattoo artists often receive requests for drawings of mythical creatures such as dragons and phoenixes. Instead of being bored of inking them so often, veteran tattoo artist Madanlal loves bringing them to life through ink or sketch, proudly showing UPDATES a penciled work of a dragon which he drew from imagination and shaded with intricate details.

Madanlal entered the tattooing industry right after completing his GCE ‘O’ Levels in 1978. A growth pressing on the nerves in his lower back in 2014, and a subsequent surgery to remove it, caused him to lose sensation in his legs and the ability to raise his arms above shoulder level. The episode was a speed bump to his career and it was only after close to four months of therapy at the TPE that he was able to resume drawing.

A self-professed ‘night owl’ who only draws and finds inspiration in the tranquility of late nights, Madanlal now takes on tattooing projects on a freelance basis. However, he is showing no signs of slowing down in the pursuit of his love for art, and going back to work as a professional tattoo artist.

Victor Hoon, 31 years old

When he was much younger, Victor’s foray into art was limited to tracing the characters from his Japanese manga collection. Now at 31-years-old, 11 years after a motorcycle accident that caused him to lose dexterity in both hands, Victor is learning to create art once more through mouth-painting.

He started by watching videos online on the basics of mouth-painting before seeking advice from veteran and established local mouth-painters.

Victor hopes that, with enough practice and experience, he will one day qualify for the scholarship provided by the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Pte Ltd (MFPA) and to further improve on his painting. This, in the long run, can help him gain financial independence.

Jamirul Syafiq Bin Jaini, 21 years old
Watercolour painting

Speaking to Jamirul about his artwork is akin to catching up with an old friend, what with his amicable and easy-going disposition. A lover of superhero comics who discovered his talent for drawing in Primary school, Jamirul’s watercolour pieces look straight off the shelves of stores selling such memorabilia.

Much work has been put into each impressive piece as Jamirul now has limited hand functions due to a traffic accident. He uses a splint to secure his tools to his hand when drawing or painting. It took him four hours to pencil in the outline of a ‘live’ size Spider-Man, and another four hours the next day to paint.

Jamirul paints for recreation and hopes his art pieces can be appreciated by more people in time to come.

Melvin Tan, 36 years old
Digital illustration

With the catchy tagline “The world is not your oyster, it’s an ice-cream. Have a GREAT time!”, along with a balanced colour scheme, the inspirational poster is clearly the work of a seasoned designer with an eye for detail.

Melvin was a graduate from the LASALLE College of the Arts and had been a professional designer for five years, creating graphic collaterals for numerous campaigns. He was only 33 years old when he was diagnosed with a rare case of stroke on both sides of his brain.

His movements slower and more labourious, Melvin now requires more time to maneuver his mouse to catch up with the ideas in his head, taking three to eight hours for each poster, not counting the conceptualisation which can take many days.

Melvin is now using his digital artwork, mostly inspired by pop-culture, to raise social awareness on health-related topics, and to induce happiness. Things are looking up for a beaming Melvin as he is slated to be employed as a copywriter at his former workplace in a couple of months.

Artwork by Madan, Victor, Jamirul and Melvin are displayed on the notice board at the lobby on the first level of the SPD Ability Centre. Melvin’s personal creations can also be found at

The TPE is a programme aimed at helping young adults below 50 years old recovering from spinal cord or stroke injuries integrate back into the mainstream workforce.