At 8, she was a painting prodigy. At 14, she wants to be the next great artist.

When Autumn de Forest was 5, she picked up a paintbrush for the first time.

Part kid, part artist. All photos and images via Autumn de Forest.

It all started one day in her garage, she told me with the confidence and clarity of someone who, at only 14, has already done hundreds of interviews.


She says she borrowed a brush from her father, who was in the middle of staining some wood, and started messing around. She thought it was fun, but her father saw something bigger going on. There was something worldly in the way she moved the bristles.

So when Autumn said she wanted to keep it up, her parents were only too happy to encourage her. At 5, she quickly moved from practicing on scrap wood in the garage to experimenting on sprawling canvasses.

It wasn't long before she was ready to show the world what she could do.

The then-6-year-old asked her father if he could get her a booth at a local art-in-the-park program.

"People would come up to the booth, and they would talk to my father, and they'd say, 'This is great!'" she said. "Apparently they thought it was Take Your Daughter to Work Day."

Almost everyone thought the artwork was her father's. And when they found out that tiny Autumn was the artist, people couldn't believe their eyes.

Autumn created this piece when she was just 5 years old.

Soon, Autumn rose to national fame.

When Autumn was 8, she was featured on the Discovery Health Channel. There was a slew of media attention in the years that followed. There was Disney. There was The Today Show. There was Wendy Williams.

She was called a child genius, a prodigy, and an expert painter.

Suddenly, Autumn de Forest was everywhere.

But not everyone was so accepting of the young artist and her work. Some people in the art world had ... questions. Sure, she was good for a kid. But was her art actually good? Others wondered if the whole thing might be an elaborate hoax.

Autumn decided not to listen.

Now, Autumn is 14, and her startlingly organized daily routine goes far beyond a 9 to 5.

Somehow, as the focus on her age begins to wear off, Autumn's work ethic and art only grow stronger. She said most days, she wakes up in her parents' Las Vegas home at 7:30 a.m. After breakfast, she breaks out her supplies for a one- or two-hour painting session.

From there, she dives into her school work. Most brick-and-mortar schools can't accommodate her travel schedule, so she does the majority of her schooling online.  

Before dinner, it's back into the studio.

"That session can last much longer, that can be three or four hours when I really get into it," she said. "Then I probably have dinner and go to bed."

It's a grind. But she says that's what being a pro is all about.

The results? They speak for themselves.

Her work has been displayed in galleries and exhibitions all over the world.

Most recently, Autumn held a public demonstration before a showing at The Butler Institute of American Art.

In 2015, Autumn received the International Giuseppe Sciacca Award in Painting and Art.

The award took her to the Vatican for a private showing of her artwork with the pope.

She's also working with the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, headed up by Michelle Obama.

As part of the program, de Forest travels to underprivileged schools around the country and leads painting workshops.

Oh, and if you're looking for some hard numbers to attach to Autumn's talent, she's got those, too.

Her paintings have raked in over $7 million at auctions over the years, much of which has gone directly to charities and disaster relief funds.

In the end, I'm still left with lots of questions about Autumn de Forest.

I know about Autumn the artist. I know about Autumn the brand. But I don't know much about Autumn the teenager.

I asked her if she ever has time to just have fun, to just kick back with friends, and her first response was that she loves volunteering with her church to help needy kids. The rest of her time is spent working on what she calls the Autumn Foundation, which will allow her to continue the work she's currently doing of introducing kids to the art world.

That's not normal teenager stuff. But maybe Autumn de Forest isn't a normal teenager. Maybe in order to get where she wants to go, she can't be.

Autumn knows she's not going to graduate from "adorable prodigy" to truly great artist without putting in the work.

It's going to take countless hours in the studio and, yes, even some smart marketing along the way. It's a lot to ask of anyone, especially someone so young.

But when I listen to her talk, I have an easy certainty about her future.

When the world stops being enamored by Autumn de Forest the prodigy, you just get the feeling she'll still be hunkered over a canvas somewhere. That she'll still be working hard with a level of focus beyond her years.

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Davina Agudelo was born in Miami, Florida, but she grew up in Medellín, Colombia.

"I am so grateful for my upbringing in Colombia, surrounded by mountains and mango trees, and for my Colombian family," Agudelo says. "Colombia is the place where I learned what's truly essential in life." It's also where she found her passion for the arts.

While she was growing up, Colombia was going through a violent drug war, and Agudelo turned to literature, theater, singing, and creative writing as a refuge. "Journaling became a sacred practice, where I could leave on the page my dreams & longings as well as my joy and sadness," she says. "During those years, poetry came to me naturally. My grandfather was a poet and though I never met him, maybe there is a little bit of his love for poetry within me."

In 1998, when she left her home and everyone she loved and moved to California, the arts continued to be her solace and comfort. She got her bachelor's degree in theater arts before getting certified in journalism at UCLA. It was there she realized the need to create a media platform that highlighted the positive contributions of LatinX in the US.

"I know the power that storytelling and writing our own stories have and how creative writing can aid us in our own transformation."

In 2012, she started Alegría Magazine and it was a great success. Later, she refurbished a van into a mobile bookstore to celebrate Latin American and LatinX indie authors and poets, while also encouraging children's reading and writing in low-income communities across Southern California.

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via Pixabay

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