Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and... de Forest?
One day, perhaps.
Autumn de Forest is a 15-year-old Las Vegas artist who has sold paintings for more than a million dollars, and has a painting in the Vatican.
And yes, art is her world. She already knows it's her life's mission. But there's more to de Forest and her goals than simply painting.
This weekend, the teenager will have her first exhibition in Las Vegas in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Then she flies to Miami for a juried art show with 500 other artists.
After being discovered at the age of 9 -- though her parents recognized something special when she was just 5 -- de Forest has been around the world.
And she admits, people express surprise when she tells them she's from Las Vegas. But Las Vegas is home, and the inspiration the city gives her is evident in some of her paintings.
How did the Vatican come about?
I was honored with the Giuseppe Sciacca Award for Arts and Culture. They take a handful of young people that they feel are changing the world for the better.
I was able to go to Rome and accept the award. And shortly after accepting the award I was able to meet and present a painting to Pope Francis. The painting is called “Resurrection.” It is somewhat abstract somewhat realist work. It’s simple yet powerful. It was absolute honor to meet him.
He said he loved the painting. He had such a warm and calming presence.
What do you think about when someone says you’re a young person trying to change the world for the better?
It just feels like an absolute honor. Being able to work with the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities and go across the country and go to under privileged schools and work and paint with the kids. It’s just an honor to do that.
How did your involvement in painting come about?
I remember skipping out into the garage in my late fives – almost 6 – and I picked up a paint brush because I saw my father staining some wood and I asked him if I could mess around and he said ‘sure.’ So, I just started. I wasn’t interested in making a huge masterpiece I was just interested in having fun. My father turned around and he said it looked like a Rothko. I had no idea what a Rothko was back then, but he is one of my favorite artists now.
I asked my mother if she could pick up some art supplies. She came back with huge canvases and great quality paint. And that is just one way my parents have been so incredibly supportive from the very beginning before they even knew there was anything there.
How much time do you spend painting every day?
I paint about four hours at the least a day. On the weekend, I’m able to create more. I really create in sessions. So, for example, I will go out to the studio when I first wake up and I’ll paint an hour or maybe an hour and a half. Then I’ll come back in and start working on a lesson or something. A lot of times that gives me an opportunity to think about what I did. Maybe I can do a little better. Maybe the color isn’t quite right over here.
I don’t remember a painting I completed start to finish. There is always a point in the piece where I have to step away from it and work on something else or take a break for a little bit.
What is the most enjoyable part of painting to you?
I would say the most enjoyable thing is when I’m very focused on a painting. I go into this place in my mind that I call my white room. And that is when I’m very focused and I’m in the piece and all of the sudden everything around me goes white. It’s just a place in my imagination where I go to.
That’s where the ideas really start flowing out and I’m able to really have that expression with the piece and put all of my feelings and the purpose of the piece into it.
How do you stay focused on art?
It is not a problem to stay focused on art. I’ve always loved music, but the growing up process has never really distracted me from my purpose in life and really what I feel that is is changing the world for the better with my art work.
Who would you say is your main influences?
There are many different artists. I promised myself that I would never commit to one style. When you see my paintings, they are many different styles they look like they’ve been done by many different artists.
I feel as though I’ve gone through many different phases. When I first started painting, it was definitely an abstract style but as I learned more about the art world and I was able to learn about different techniques and about different artists it really opened my mind up to experimenting with different styles.
Where does your ability come from?
I would say it definitely more practice. My father is a musician. He composed many music pieces for ABC and NBC. And my mother was an actress and a model. So I do have some art in my family. But I would definitely say practice, but my parents and my family have been so incredibly supportive. It was hard not to pursue what I felt passionate with.
Do have a sense of how special and unique this all is?
I would say yes, in a way. I’ve never been the money girl. I’ve never priced any of my pieces. I feel that it is much more critical to not necessarily focus on total sales but to focus on what the real message is and what you’re plan is to give back. And that can be through many, many different outlets, whether that is giving back to the local community or that’s giving back on a global, universal scale.
How has painting changed you?
I feel that each painting changes me. I would say definitely in different ways. Honestly, I don’t remember who I was before I started painting. I was a little kid.
I believe that each and every painting does something to me and it is always on a positive note.
Autumn de Forest, artist