Monday, November 9, 2015

Spotlight: Iris Halmshaw

By the age of 5, Iris Grace Halmshaw had art collectors from around the world bidding on her work.  Amounts have exceeded £4,000 (about $6,300 in 2014) for the paintings of the Leicestershire, England-born girl, and the now 6-year-old currently has over 152,000 Facebook likes.  Her work has been said to communicate an astonishing amount, perhaps especially impressive for a girl who, when she first started painting, could barely speak at all.

Iris has autism, diagnosed after her parents noticed that, at two years old, she rarely made eye contact and hadn't picked up any words.  After Iris was diagnosed, her parents—photographer Arabella Carter-Johnson and husband Peter-Jon Halmshaw—continued to do their own research on autism, which eventually led them to the idea of art therapy.

Iris started painting in March of 2013.  As part of a homeschool curriculum Carter-Johnson had created for her daughter, they taped paper to Iris's favorite table and let her paint whatever she liked.  And paint she did, but not with the usual technique of a toddler.  Instead, she filled the paper with a colorful impressionist style that would later earn her the title of "mini-Monet."

Iris painting in the kitchen #IrisGrace #Iris #IrisGracePainting #IrisGrace #art #artist #painting

A photo posted by Iris Grace (@irisgracepainting) on

Iris's mood changed as she painted too, becoming happy and free.  She may have trouble communicating vocally, but her mother says Iris uses her paintbrush as a way to convey her feelings now.  And with the money from sales of paintings and prints, the family has been able to continue Iris's weekly private therapies and hire a tutor to assist in her home education.  Carter-Johnson says that all the profits from the original paintings go into Iris's savings account, and profits from cards and prints go toward her speech and occupational therapies, as well as her music and yoga.  As of 2014, Iris was learning new words every day.

But even with all the publicity, Iris's parents have tried to keep her life as normal as possible.  Carter-Johnson notes that nothing has changed in Iris's world, and she hasn't done interviews or been to TV studios.  Austism affects Iris in many ways, and one of its side effects is that she has trouble with social interactions and can be anxious around new people.  But she appears to have no trouble expressing herself through her many pieces of art.

Trumpet 55cm x 75cm by Iris Grace #IrisGracePainting #IrisGrace #Iris #painting #trumpet #art

A photo posted by Iris Grace (@irisgracepainting) on

You can learn more about Iris and her paintings on her website and social media pages as linked from the site, as well as from CNN, CBS News, ABC News, Buzzfeed, and other places as listed on her website.

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