British Toddler’s Paintings Go Global

By Alana Abramson

Jul 2, 2013 1:06pm

Iris Grace Halmshaw, 3, has become an international sensation for her paintings, which are selling around the world for thousands of dollars.

An original painting by the British toddler is selling for up to 1,500 pounds ($2,280), her mother, Arabella Carter-Johnson wrote in an e-mail to ABC News. A print of her painting sells for as much as 295 pounds, or $480.

But Halmshaw’s painting capabilities have a special meaning for her parents: she was diagnosed with autism in 2011, and her artwork is bringing the family both emotional and financial relief.

HT Iris painting lpl 130702 33x16 608 British Toddlers Paintings Go Global
Arabella Carter Johnson

Johnson wrote on the website she created showcasing her daughter’s paintings that when Iris Grace was diagnosed, “eye contact was a rare occurrence,” and she “showed obsessive behaviors, got desperately distressed when we took her near any other children and her sleep patterns were all over the place.” Her parents put her in intensive therapy to help her with these issues.

Iris Grace began painting this March, Johnson told ABC News.  She wrote that painting was vital to helping her daughter deal with her condition.

“It’s improved her eye contact and speech,” Johnson wrote. “She loves it so much that it makes her feel better if she is in a bad mood or upset.  She can ‘de-stress’ while she paints and sometimes it makes her incredibly calm and peaceful.”

SEE IRIS GRACE’S PAINTINGS ON HER WEBSITE

Iris Grace has become a popular figure online. In addition to the website her parents up, there is a Twitter handle (@irispainting) and a  Facebook group that has amassed over 7,000 likes. According to her mother, her paintings have been viewed by people from 126 countries.

Johnson wrote that Iris Grace has a natural attention to detail, and is frequently inspired by nature.

“She inspects everything, leaves, flowers, trees, stones.  She watches the movement that the wind creates and will dance for hours in the rain if I let her.  She will watch water in the bath and play with bubbles studying how they move,” Johnson explained

Johnson wrote that she was not sure how much money she and her husband had raised from selling the paintings, and had not been keeping track of how many copies had been sold.  The proceeds for her paintings go to the toddler’s therapy. Johnson noted that they had made enough to cover the costs of therapy for this year.

Johnson, who is also a wedding photographer, is working with National Autistic Society and The Autism Research Trust on planning an exhibition of her daughter’s paintings this November in London.

The demand for Iris Grace’s paintings inevitably brings up comparisons with another child artist, Marla Olmstead. In 2004, Olmstead, who is from Binghamton, N.Y., gained widespread recognition for her seemingly prodigious painting abilities. But she ultimately came under fire for allegations that her paintings were not completely authentic because her father was helping her.

READ MORE ABOUT MARLA OLMSTEAD

But Johnson wrote that she is just happy painting is both helping her daughter and making her happy.

“I was just as proud of her for saying ‘up’ when she wanted to be picked up than I am for her a sale of her paintings,” she wrote.

 

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