~ 3 minute read
As an artist on the autism spectrum, I have learned to embrace my neurodiversity as well as my talent, and even to celebrate them. It’s been a journey spanning many years from self discovery to self acceptance and finally to self-celebration.
It wasn’t always easy. In fact, for the first half of my life, it was hard, very hard, both for myself and others around me. As a child and a young man, I never fit in anywhere, not at home, not at school, not even among my peers. Everyone in my life knew I was capable of doing well, yet I seemed to be a constant disappointment, failing to put in the required effort and generally getting in my own way.
I eventually left school prior to graduating and went on to a seemingly endless string of menial jobs, none of which lasted long. The anxiety was overpowering, not only for those around me, but for me as well. It was like I didn’t belong anywhere. I saw people all the time, fitting in, going about the things people do, happily and without effort. I couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t, and what’s more, I can’t say I ever wanted to. I used to imagine that I wasn’t really human at all, but an alien dropped onto Earth to live among its inhabitants.
Then, at the age of 36, the lights came on. After consulting a psychologist, I was given a diagnosis; I was on the autism spectrum. I had no idea what that meant at the time, but even the simple act of being given something, a name, a reason for my being the way I was, was like a weight lifted off my shoulders! I began to study, reading everything I could get my hands on about autism, and the more I read, the more it “clicked;” it all started to make sense.
This journey has been both positive and not so positive, but it’s led me to the person and artist I am today and being able to honestly embrace myself as I am. The biggest positive it’s given me is the classical “laser focus” that allowed me to throw myself into my passion without apology. I spent countless hours over the years drawing, painting, and studying the old masters. It was the hardest work I’d ever done, and the only thing I wanted to do. Along with that, I was able to create my own style, something that shared my unique way of looking at the world with others.
In hindsight, the “not so positives” came from my own fears. For years, I stayed silent about my diagnosis, terrified that I wouldn’t be taken seriously as an artist. I had a dream of being celebrated in the biggest, fanciest galleries in the world and my inability, or should I say disinclination, toward the traditional cocktail party, mix and mingle gallery scene seemed to be a detriment. I was terrified that I’d be turned away from the gallery scene due to my diagnosis; I mean no one wants a meltdown during an opening, right? And those that did initially embrace me when I disclosed my autism often seemed disappointed that I “wasn’t autistic enough.” There I was again, a square peg in a round hole, not fitting anywhere.
Despite initial rejections from galleries, I continued on and found my art was embraced enthusiastically by people, all kinds of people from all walks of life. There was something in my work that resonated with them. They felt something in my work and told me their stories, stories about themselves, about their children, stories that felt so familiar to my own. As they shared with me, I gained the courage to share back and to openly discuss my diagnosis. Their acceptance helped me toward accepting and celebrating myself. And now, with a successful art career and paintings hanging in homes and offices all over the world, from Canada to New Zealand, I can honestly say, I’m Carl, I’m an artist, I’m autistic and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
About Carl Parker
Carl Parker is a Canadian artist that creates paintings with roots in Expressionism. His influences range from Edvard Munch to Vincent van Gogh to Francis Bacon. Having been immersed in drawing since childhood, at the age of 36, he decided to take that ability into painting. Quickly, he saw success in the fine arts. Carl has an eclectic and signature style which tends to contain emotion and complexities of family life and challenges, as well as triumphs of people on the Autism Spectrum and all people. He paints in his own way and this honest style was embraced by collectors. His art resonates with his fans and they relate to the life symbolism and human emotion that must contain joy, pain, and every experience in between. A testament to what is possible, his art can now be found in private and corporate collections throughout the world, including Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Europe. To date, he has shown his work in various cities including Toronto, Calgary, Florence, Italy and Paris.
You can view and purchase Carl's artwork at https://www.parkerart.ca/
Carl has also written several books!
Carl Parker: A Life in Paint - Click here to purchase.
Fake News, Real Paintings: An Artist's View of What's Wrong with the World - Click here to purchase.
Buy This Damn Book: Memoir of an Aspie Artist - Click here to purchase.
How to be a Successful Artist, Keep (Most of) Your Sanity & Make Some Money - Click here to purchase.
DISCLAIMER: This document reflects the views of the author. It is Autism Ontario’s intent to inform and educate. Every situation is unique and while we hope this information is useful, it should be used in the context of broader considerations for each person. Please contact Autism Ontario at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-246-9592 for permission to reproduce this material for any purpose other than personal use. © 2021 Autism Ontario 416.246.9592 www.autismontario.com