AURORA EXTRA: Gifted artist, Elizabeth Cant

L’Arche (The Ark) supports people living with an intellectual disability. Enjoy this story written by Hunter L’Arche and come along to the next L’Arche gathering on 2 July in Mayfield East. All are welcome!

The word ‘gifted’ springs to mind when you realise every picture displayed in the room is painted by the same artist, ‘proud’ when you learn she’s a Novocastrian and ‘inspired’ when you discover she paints with a paintbrush in her mouth.

Elizabeth Cant of Cameron Park learned to master the paintbrush with her mouth after she was tragically struck by a moving car at the age of eight. The incident in 1974 changed her life forever. She sustained brain damage which inevitably restricted her mobility and the use of her hands and arms.

Her life, and the lives of her parents and three brothers, were never to be the same, with challenges and new obstacles daily. These tests and trials however, didn’t hinder the Cants; indeed, they were strengthened as a family.

Elizabeth’s gentle kind-heartedness is a true reflection of her parents, Wendy and Bill, who were responsible for discovering and encouraging their only daughter’s hidden interest and talent in art.

Elizabeth was attending Waratah’s Orthopaedic School and instead of sport, the students participated in Guides and Scouts. Determined, she wanted to earn all the badges and the next one in sight was the artist badge. 

“I heard about people putting brushes in their mouths so we tried it and we found out she could paint,” recalls Wendy.

“She made this lovely little seascape and I touched it up a little but apart from the white shoe polish I added to lift it, it was all Elizabeth’s work.”

The newly-discovered artist continued to develop her natural talent over the years, taking private lessons in the Hunter and continuing to amaze those around her, including those in her L’Arche Community.

Wendy and Bill encountered L’Arche as they were desperately seeking a suitable place for Elizabeth to live as her physical disabilities made it increasingly difficult for them to be satisfied they could continue to care for her as they aged.

They soon realised there were no L’Arche housing options available in the Hunter, but eventually a place became available in Cameron Park where Elizabeth now has 24-hour care. Wendy and Bill aren’t far away in Elermore Vale.

Despite not living within a L’Arche community, Elizabeth is a core member of L’Arche Hunter, a group that meets regularly. Only recently the group learned of Elizabeth’s artistic flair and insisted on distributing a set of greeting cards produced from a selection of her paintings in recognition of this special gift.

“No matter what your loved one wants, try and make it happen,” says Wendy as she talks about her encounters with the L’Arche Community. Needless to say, Elizabeth was more than happy to accept the offer to have her cherished paintings reproduced as cards.

Coincidentally, a family friend who was admiring Elizabeth’s cards had recently attended a conference in Canada with the founder of L’Arche, Jean Vanier. She decided to send a card to him in France, so by now no doubt he’s just as impressed as those already in the local loop!

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Natalee Bonomini Image
Natalee Bonomini

Natalee Bonomini is a Newcastle writer.

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