Common Threads in Autistic Art

“Autistic art” describes art made by autistic people. Despite the stereotype that autistics are the closest humans can come to emotionless robots, many autistic people enjoy colorful and elaborate powers of imagination. It’s even been posited that humanity’s first artists could have been autistic.

I enjoy looking at autistic art. Every artist has their unique style and imagination, and yet much of it feels so familiar to the way I see the world.

As I’ve explored autistic art, I’ve noticed commonalities in the way many autistic people produce art. I believe that this is based on fundamental traits of how we see the world. I’d like to share these thoughts of mine with you.

These common threads are:

  • Beauty in repetition
  • Attention to detail
  • Bright colors

It doesn’t describe all autistic art, of course, but I do find that many pictures by autistic people include some or all of these traits.

As I go over each trait, I’m going to pull examples from work displayed online. Click on a picture or its caption to see the work in detail.

Beauty in repetition

Autistics are known for “repetitive behavior” (like walking in circles or rocking back and forth) and attention to patterns. Similarly, patterns blossom in many examples of autistic art.

From Light Into Being” by Holly from the UK
The Mark Twain House with the Diamond Eclipse” by Jessica Park
Calm Ocean Waves” by Nian Jain
Art by Shawn Belanger
Taste the Rainbow” by Maranda Russell
Neurodiversity” by Sarah Bower
Fish Mosaic in Plastic Polluted Sea” by Wan Jamila Wan Shaiful Bahri

Attention to detail

Autistic people are known for being detail-oriented, admiring a tree before noticing the forest. Similarly, many works of art by autistic artists capture minute details. An autistic person can work on a single project for hours, long after most neurotypicals would get tired and move on.

Bright colors

Autistic artists often use bright, saturated colors. I don’t know why, but my guess is that it’s related to the effect described by the intense world theory of autism: we experience the world as a colorful and sometimes overwhelming place, and bright colors better describe our experiences.

I can’t say for sure, though. All I know is that bright colors look cheerful to me, and I like cheerful things. (I’m since trying to tone it down a little because I’ve learned that some people get headaches from looking at too many bright colors.)

The Beatles by Jake Chodosh
Untitled” by Susan Te Kahurangi King
I Think I’d Like a Garden Someday” by me in 2014
Temple of Two Minds” by Tim Sharp
Future Girlfriend” by Jeremy Sicile-Kira
Flower Feilds” (sic) by Colleen Ranney
Two Guys” by Jimmy Reagan

Final thoughts

Autistic art is a diverse and beautiful genre. Every artist, no matter whether they’ve practiced for days or decades, offers a unique style.

Just in case it isn’t obvious, I’d like to point out to my autistic readers that you aren’t a “bad” artist if you don’t match all of patterns. Some of the colorful artwork here is less detailed. Some of the detailed art uses a more subdued color palette. Some art contains little repetition.

My art isn’t always detailed or repetitive. (Though it’s usually colorful because I like it that way.) But I do find it interesting to examine how my artwork expresses my feelings and experiences.

I hope you enjoyed looking at this beautiful artwork today.

9 thoughts on “Common Threads in Autistic Art

  1. A snippet from the link above:

    “Without the development of autism-related abilities in some people, it is conceivable that humans would not have been able to survive in a freezing environment in which finding food required enhanced skills,” she said.

    In conclusion, humans would have not survived the cold if not for autism.

    Shorter conclusion: autistics saved the world.

    Neato!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wanted to say, “Thank you, Luna, for introducing me to all the new artists”

    and the ones you know on DeviantArt

    and that you charted three common qualities [repetition; colour; detail attention].

    It had happened while reading your post I was re-reading THE AUTIST ARTIST; a text that meant a lot to me 20 and 21 years ago.

    It is about Jose and his line drawings of fish and birds and botanic parts.

    [made me think of a submarine biologist and someone who is doing botanical drawings in my life – two clever brothers – the other is a legalist].

    Also Stephen Wiltshire in PRODIGIES.

    And Grandin of course is a designer and she took on an architect’s style – David – when she was about twenty-eight-ish.

    There were architectural draftspeople working for the War Department in my mother’s family.

    Loving all the cities that David Downes does.

    Would mention Christophe Pillault.

    Bright colours do look cheerful.

    I do like toned-down colours too.

    When I was small there was a mid-tone green for my bedroom furniture and striped orange for my curtains.

    Cezanne had said: “It is the Louvre which taught me to read” and I do use some variation of that quote.

    For me it was museums and coloured lights on walls.

    And there was a frieze for the alphabet with gumnuts on it.

    There are many artists I enjoy like Seth Chwast; Jonathan Lerman; lots of people on The Art of Autism [there were several this year that were awesome]; Danni Peka Miller [who I discovered five years ago this week]; Berenice {Misha}; Cindy.

    Maranda Russell’s TASTE THE RAINBOW was great.

    And TEMPLE OF TWO MINDS by Tim Sharp. Tim Sharp had LASER BEAK MAN turned into a play and lots of creative control.

    Thinking, too, of Mirka Mora – who was a French-Romanian-Australian artist who got into the community and into public art.

    Public art is so good and it is a way that many people see and understand art who might not otherwise get to.

    Liked by 1 person

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