13 Amazing Artists on the Autism Spectrum You Need to Check Out
Art is a cathartic outlet for many reasons. It’s a way to express feelings that you can’t easily articulate, advocate for a cause or a belief and, for some, it can also be a means of making a living. This can especially be important for people on the autism spectrum, some of whom have difficulty with communication. In Mighty contributor Kate Smith’s article, “How the Arts Gave Me a Voice Before I Knew I Have Asperger’s,” she wrote:
What I did know from an early age was that the arts were my everything — my way to express myself, my way to feel connected and my way to feel truly alive. … Art became my lens through which I saw the world, and it seemed to be the only way I could express myself in it.
In addition to being a way for people to express complicated emotions and thoughts, art also provides an opportunity for neurotypical individuals to see through the lens of an autistic person. For example, photographer Shauna Phoon, who is autistic, uses her camera to show the diversity of experiences, races and genders in the autism community.
Many artists use their medium, experience and creativity to construct a bridge of understanding between sometimes wildly different perspectives. To give praise to some of those talented individuals, we asked our community for some of their favorite autistic artists.
Here are some of their recommendations:
1. Anna Berry
Anna Berry photographs and constructs images that center around gender, race, marginalized groups and religions. Her most notable works are her performance and paper sculptures. Berry stated on her website she believes art to not only be cathartic and soothing but also capable of granting insight to a different and unique perspective that most people would never be aware of or exposed to. In addition to being featured in several exhibitions, Berry’s photographs have been featured in various publications and magazines.
2. Bryn Graves
Bryn Graves is an engineer, photographer and musician whose photographs focus on people. He has held several solo exhibitions in Britain and his images have been used in SHOT! Magazine, 1x.com and more. His mantra is, “I see things differently.”
“Being autistic gives me a unique perspective on the world through patterns, light, shade, repetition and order,” Graves wrote in his Mighty article, “My Unique Perspective as an Autistic Photographer.” “Autism enables me to create unique images that are moody, striking and have a distinctive, unique style about them.”
3. Jon Adams
Jon Adams weaves his experience with dyslexia and Asperger’s syndrome into his artwork, along with his knowledge of geology. He believes that “obsessions” and repetitive behavior in autistic people are purposeful and allow them to think in a different and unique way. Adams stated that “obsessions” have allowed him to notice and reflect on patterns that would’ve otherwise gone unnoticed. He has won multiple digital art awards and fellowships and participated in many projects focusing on disability.
4. Kambel Smith
Kambel Smith is a self-taught artist and illustrated the book series “The Adventures of Survivor.” His projects include a cardboard model of buildings in Philadelphia and oil paintings of shops, the environment and people. From May 9 to June 16, Smith will be featured in a show at Atlanta Contemporary, where he has designed a cardboard panorama of Atlanta’s architectural landmarks.
Maxwell Bitton is an autistic painter who first had his work featured in a solo exhibit called Son Monde, translated to mean “His World.” He has done collaborations with fellow artists and designers such as Lucie Chicoine, Paul Bourgault and Danielle Marleau. In 2016, he participated in an exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts called The Art of Being Unique, a residential program for young people with intellectual disabilities or who are on the autism spectrum.
Based in London, Megan Rhiannon is an autistic illustrator with aphantasia, which, as Rhiannon describes, is the “complete lack of the ability to think visually.” Both conditions have influenced her artistic vision and passion. She observes her daily life, surroundings and overheard conversations and creates artwork based on her findings. She also vlogs about some of her adventures and drawings.
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Working in realism has always been instinctual and almost easy for me. In general, I’m a very literal person who enjoys feeling safe and in control. I am not a risk taker and I love planning. (not as lame as it sounds ????☺️????) Realistic art offers me the security I crave. BUT, thankfully, my art practice offers me a safe space to learn about feeling uncomfortable, working intuitively, taking risks, and being more expressive. With my last portrait, I began the process with this very literal rendering. However, in the final painting I pushed myself to let go, make expressive marks and discover a color pallet that “felt right.” I think it’s pretty special that my studio practice is one and the same as my personal growth practice. Here’s to leaning into the hard stuff and challenging yourself to do what doesn’t come naturally! #leanin #personalgrowth #itsaprocess
Mikaela Sheldt’s art focuses on painting and photography but the highlight of her portfolio is her ability to illustrate facial expressions. After studying the information on a person’s face, Sheldt translates and paints a portrait. Sheldt told The Mighty in a 2017 interview she often experiences multiple senses at once and it can be overwhelming and exhausting. However, when she is in her art studio, she is able to focus on individual sections for as long as she wants.
“When I paint a portrait or a seascape I am doing so much more than rendering,” she said. “I am painting the way a subject makes me feel. As a person on the autism spectrum, painting the way something feels has a very distinct meaning. The world is an incredibly loud place.”
8. Niam Jain
Niam Jain is an abstract artist, model and entrepreneur. According to Jain’s website, he has limited verbal ability, so he skillfully and emotionally articulates his world view through his art. He has been featured in exhibitions since 2015 across Canada, including solo events. Jain works primarily in acrylic or oil paint on canvas, and his colorful works have added a new depth to abstract expressionism art.
Rebecca Burgess is a comic artist who draws images to help educate the public about living on the autism spectrum. She draws autistic characters that interact with readers in order to debunk common myths about autism and help others understand neurodiversity. Most notably, she recreated the “spectrum” of autism to challenge stereotypes associated with the disorder. Her work has been shared by Geek Club Books and the Art of Autism.
10. Remy’s Rainbows
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I’ve been needing to get up with Remy in the mornings this week as Daddy has had to leave super early for work. While I’m exhausted, Remy is excited to do some art before school! He created this set of coasters and I love the bright red! #fluidart_daily #autism #fluidart #functionalart #coasters #red #acrylicpouring #pouring #silicon #kidartist #kids #autismawareness #autistickids
Remy was placed in a number of extracurricular activities, including sports, puzzles, and arts and crafts. One of these activities was acrylic fluid art. After he and his mother learned more about acrylic art, 7-year-old Remy began to take a stark interest in creating gorgeous marbled pieces. The intent of Remy’s art is to expose the world to the potential that autistic children possess. In addition to displaying and featuring his art on their website, Remy’s mother also blogs about her experiences of being a parent of a child on the autism spectrum.
11. Ryan Smoluk
Ryan Smoluk began competing in art competitions and exhibitions when he was young and has since turned it into a career as a working artist and teacher. His creative paintings and sculptures have received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, a United Nations Stamp Award and features in exhibitions at Artbeat Studio, Upbeat Gallery and more. He is also an advocate for mental health and speaks at conferences and schools about his experiences.
12. Shauna Phoon
Shauna Phoon is an autistic photographer and jewelry designer. One of her major projects, “The Absence of Normal,” highlighted the shared and diverse experiences of people on the autism spectrum. In a 2016 interview with The Mighty, Phoon said as a child she experienced feelings of being an outsider before obtaining an autism diagnosis in her 20s. While looking at research into brain scans of people on the spectrum, she noticed there were inconsistent communication patterns between brain regions. This combined with her experience growing up became the basis and inspiration for her project.
Stephen Wiltshire is a well-known British architectural artist who can draw a landscape from memory after viewing it once. According to his website, when Wiltshire was a child, he was nonverbal but learned to communicate by drawing animals and cars. After having his art supplies taken away, Wiltshire uttered his first word, “paper,” and was able to speak fluently by age 9. Before he had turned 18, Wiltshire received commissions from the British Prime Minister for his drawings, was featured in various shows, took part in drawing tours at several landmarks across the globe and published three books.
Who are your favorite autistic artists? Let us know in the comments!