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Autism and the Artistic Eye

Autism and the Artistic Eye
Pic ID: Acrylic painting in all pastel colors, of a woman sleeping by a tree, with a crescent moon above and a stream of colors and music notes coming down from the moon, then wrapping around a tree which then wraps around the woman sleeping.

When I was 9 years old I decided that I wanted to start drawing faces. I had a regular number 2 pencil and some printer paper. I would look up faces in books and try my best to draw an accurate picture of what I saw. I came from a family of artists, my Grandma was a painter and my Grandpa drew faces. I always saw their art around the house or at my Aunt and Uncles house and I would try to duplicate that as well.

A year later my Grandparents came to visit us in Texas. I gave them the drawing to take home to Washington. More of my relatives wanted me to make more art for them, so I began to take requests. I often drew religious art from the Bible, pictures of God and such. Going to art museums would soon become one of my favorite things to do. I wanted to learn from all of the great artists.

I was 12 years old when we moved from Texas to Washington. I had been drawing more by then, still mostly with a number 2 pencil and printer paper. Art supplies were currently out of my budget. I soon began to use color pencils in my art as well. Over time I noticed that my perspective was beginning to develop. In junior high, art class was the one class that I looked forward to along with geography. When we had a whole hour to make our own art project was the best part of the day. At the time I still had not had a diagnosis, I was beginning to sense that I was different, but art and music seemed to be the only thing that made any sense to me.

Pic ID: Pencil drawing of a woman with long hair and dark eyes, drawn by the author at age 14

In 9th grade I took an art class in high school. With my grades slipping further behind, I was told that I had better study harder, or be pulled from art class. During this time in my life I began to hear more and more people speak with a negative connotation about the art world. It seemed that the term “Starving Artist” was being spoken by more and more people, oddly enough by people who did not have a career in art, nor did they understand how to make one come to fruition.

Art had its way of making me to feel less lonely and more understood. I had gotten to a point that I completely forgot that I was different and that I struggled in school, I had finally found something that I was able to do, for me it became like a security blanket. But since I struggled in school, my ability with art was soon overlooked to make room to address the academic problems at hand.

In the 10th grade I transferred to a public school were I could possibly get more academic help. While things were starting to get a little bit better, my math grades were slowly picking back up to at least an average level which was very pleasing to me. I enrolled in an art class that had more of a focus on drawing faces which was my favorite area of interest. One of our projects was to draw a self portrait. I succeeded in getting an above average grade on it.

Soon I started branching out and working with pastels, paints and drawing other types of things such as landscapes and animals. By this point I had been working with art for about 7 years. My skills were starting to build and develop. Soon people were paying me to draw self portraits. At this point I began to think of a career in the arts, but by senior year my grades were slipping again and my dreams of an art career soon felt more and more out of reach. After high school I took some art classes at the community college, but my grades sunk too low for me to return. Once I picked up a retail job, and after much heavy discouragement I soon dropped art completely. As far as I could concur, any job prospects outside of minimum wage were likely unrealistic.

I was able to join the Navy at age 20, I had picked piano back up and began drawing faces again. As soon as I was no longer around the negativity, I was beginning to flourish. After my four year enlistment was up I got out. When I got back home I applied to have my art reviewed at a local gallery to see if my art would be approved to be on consignment. I was lucky enough to have some members vote yes, but it was an overall no. I was told to keep practicing with my art, take a few classes at the local art store and come back when it was more at gallery level to have a new review done by the panel. I was pretty hopeful with the feedback that I had been given that I would be able to work on my skills and bring it up to gallery level.

During this time I began to paint with acrylics and water colors. After one of my closest friends suddenly passed, I spent the week working on a bigger art painting. I started to really like watercolors as well. During the winter of 2020 I got sick with Covid. While I was at home regaining my strength and energy, I began to develop a second business plan, to sell watercolor paintings. I am currently working on this business goal, and today I have real art supplies (gasp!). I have paint supplies as well as art paper and drawing pencils. I found a lot of my art supplies at garage sales in the years past. I am still working towards the goal of becoming a gallery consignment artist. I am hoping to make this dream a reality in the next few years, and hopefully during the summer I will have more time to work out a plan.

Pic ID: Art desk in the author’s home, with paints on the desk as well as a computer and books

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