Person of the Week: Amanda Dunbar

Amanda Dunbar, 24, is an artist who's won fans and critics with the stroke of her paint brush, while winning another set of admirers for her generosity.

She estimates she's raised close to $1 million for worthy causes through the sale of her artwork. She's been painting since she was a preteen, and she compares the process of creating emotional artworks to the job of an athlete.

"It's like being in the zone," she said. "Sports figures talk about just how … you don't even have to think about things, they just happen, and your body just responds and … that's exactly what it's like, I think, when I'm really getting into a painting."

The Canadian moved to Dallas with her family when she was 12, and one year later she painted her first picture, an impressionistic mother and child in oils.

Her teacher took one look and called her parents in for a talk. They were shocked at what their daughter had painted.

"I thought, if you're teaching my kid this, I need to take your class because you're good," said Judi Dunbar. "He said, 'No, you don't understand. I haven't really taught her anything. This is just what she's done on her own.'"

She was soon called a teen prodigy, and her work was shown professionally, although there were some skeptics.

"People used to ask me if it really was me doing the paintings," Amanda Dunbar said, "which was kind of bizarre. … It's my job to prove them wrong."

Art for Others

A few years after she began painting, this young artist was selling works for big money. She had her first solo show at age 16, and everything sold for a total of $500,000.

She then began to consider what to do with her art money and said what she felt "most strongly about" was "art and kids."

So she founded her own charity to fund art programs in schools and has spread her philanthropy across a broad range of causes to help kids.

Her family estimates that Amanda, a recent college graduate, has raised close to $1 million for worthy causes -- among them, the Grammy MusiCares Foundation for Artists.

She also donated funds to aid a pair of conjoined Italian twins who were in Dallas recently for treatment.

She also talks with kids and mentions the Sept 11 terror attacks in her presentation.

She became an American citizen shortly after that event and did two paintings on the subject, she said -- "one that isn't finished and is really nasty-ugly and one that is finished.

"When I show it to the kids," she added, "I show them that art is about expressing your feelings, even if you never finish it, even if it's ugly … even if it's something you'll never look at again."

And emotions are at the forefront of her vibrant, dramatic art.

"I think it's just about learning to look at things and to see things, and just be as true to that as you can," she said. "If you have … something amazing happen to you, [you] really have the responsibility to share it with other people. I think, you know, you get back what you give times 10, so I try to remember that."

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