By HUGO GYE
A three-year-old autistic girl has made a splash in the art world with her extraordinary paintings.
Iris Grace Halmshaw began doing art as therapy, but when her parents decided to put the works on sale they began fetching prices of up to £830.
And painting has also helped improve the youngster’s condition – she is now eager to play with her parents and has adopted a much happier demeanour.
Her mother Arabella Carter-Johnson, of Market Harborough in Leicestershire, said she had received positive feedback since posting her daughter’s paintings on Facebook.
‘We realised about three months ago she is actually really talented,’ she said. ‘Inquiries to buy her paintings were flooding in from all over the world and a framed print sold in a charity auction in London for £830.’
Iris Grace’s financier father, Peter-Jon Halmshaw, added: ‘When she started doing art therapy we thought it was amazing, but we’re her parents so we think everything she does is amazing.
‘But lots of other people started saying it was great. It went berserk from there.’
So far, the family has sold eight of Iris Grace’s artworks, and is planning to makes prints of the paintings available too.
The three-year-old, who does not speak, was diagnosed with autism last year after her parents noticed she rarely made eye contact with them, and they tried a number of different therapies to help socialise her.
‘We started with play therapy and we’ve had speech, equine, occupational and music therapy, looked at her nutrition and quite a few other methods,’ said Ms Carter-Johnson, 32. ‘With the expert help of many therapists she changed dramatically in a short space of time.
‘She used to be consumed by books, eye contact was a rare occurrence, she didn’t want to, or know how to, play with us and got desperately distressed when we took her near any other children.
‘She now rides on my back in fits of laughter, plays and communicates by creating her own signs.
‘We still have a long way to go with her social skills and speech, but we are having many more good days.
‘Her autism has created a style which I’ve never seen in a child of her age – she has an understanding of colours and how they interact. She beams with excitement and joy when I get out the paints.’
Iris Grace’s talent came to light a few months ago when her mother first encouraged her to start drawing.
‘As part of play therapy I tried to get Iris Grace to draw,’ she said. ‘I then got out an easel – which she hated – but when I put the paper and paints on the table she loved it.
‘She was soon high-flicking and stabbing with the brushes. She loves to experiment.’
Mrs Carter-Johnson added: ‘I would love to think that Iris Grace’s story can be an inspiration to any parents with an autistic child.’
Michaela Butter, co-director of Embrace Arts, the University of Leicester’s inclusive arts centre, said: ‘As Iris Grace’s paintings demonstrate so well, disability is no barrier to creativity.’
The family are hoping to arrange an exhibition in London to give Iris Grace’s paintings a wider audience.
All profits from sales go towards art materials and paying her therapists.