A North Texas woman is gaining national attention for her paintings. Hannah Werchan is a Texas Woman's University art major, who uses her own struggles with a rare disorder, as inspiration.
“I like to express myself in painting and drawing in what I'm feeling and what I'm going through,” said Werchan, who grew up in Tyler.
Werchan's story is best told through brush strokes, on canvas. A story with many chapters – not all of them pleasant.
“That's one reason I'm so drawn to portraiture and figures,” she explained. “Because I have so many issues with my body, so I like being able to put that on a canvas."
Her love for painting began as a child, in part, out of necessity.
“Because of my disabilities, I couldn't participate in a lot of things other kids participate in,” she said.
Hannah was born with Stickler Syndrome, a rare connective tissue disorder. It affects her eyesight and hearing. She was born with cleft palate, and suffers from arthritis. The painful disorder puts many sufferers on the sideline.
“I didn't have much issue with ‘I can't do this, I can't do that’,” she said. “It was, I can do this. I can do that."
Art helps her cope. Each painting, another page in her life. Many are named simplistically and medically after the effects of the disorder she lives with.
Recently, a piece called “Growth” won first prize in the Kennedy Center's VSA Emerging Young Artist competition, which honors young artists with disabilities. Hannah received $10,000 for her first prize finish. The winning painting will be part of a national traveling art exhibit through the Kennedy Center.
“It means a lot,” said Werchan. “I feel like I'm my own worst critic, and I have so much further to go."
A story, with many chapters still to be written. Hannah is a senior. She plans to attend grad school, and wants to be an art teacher. She's prepared for the fact that her disease will only worsen.
It won't stop her.
“There are days that are definitely harder than others,” she said. “But life is too short to be down on yourself, and throw yourself a pity party."