Iris Grace Painting garden studio

A few words to describe Iris
delightful, funny, serene, dainty, intelligent, crafty and utterly gorgeous !
Iris loves nature, books, art, animals and her cat Thula.
From a photograph you wouldn’t think that anything was different but there is, Iris is on the Autistic Spectrum.  She is now starting to speak but that doesn’t come easily to her and she has great trouble with interacting with others but expresses herself beautifully through movement and art.  Since she was diagnosed in December 2011 at 2 yrs old we were able to learn about how we could help our daughter.  With the expert help of many therapists, aniamls and a ‘follow the child’ approach she changed dramatically in just 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, showed obsessive behaviour, got desperately distressed when we took her near any other children and her sleep patterns were all over the place.  Now it’s a different story, she plays, communicates and her sleeping is much better.  We still have a long way to go with her social skills and speech, but we are having many more ‘good days’ and one of her favourite activities is Painting.


We were very lucky to have the talented film maker Rupert Ward-Lewis create a short film of Iris. He has captured her spirit and joy while she paints and her innate interest in nature and the English landscape. This gentle, lyrical film begins with a poem read by award winning actress Olivia Colman and then takes you on a journey into the world of little Iris Grace.

Iris and Thula Painting together
We have been encouraging Iris to paint to help with speech therapy, joint attention and turn taking.  Her autism and incredible concentration span has created a style of painting which I have never seen in a child of her age, she has an understanding of colours and how they interact with each other and she beams with excitement and joy when I get out the paints.


Painting Technique

June 2014 Painting in the meadow

Many of you have been asking how Iris paints, what involvement do we have ? How much help does she get ?

So I thought I would give an example of a typical Iris art session.

All of her kit, the table she paints on and the equipment is left in the kitchen so she is free to come and go, painting when she wants to.

– Iris indicates she would like to paint by walking up to the sink and pointing at her brush and the mug she uses.

– I go to the cupboard and take out the paint bottles and she indicates which colour she would like to be made up. If the colour isnt there (like purple) she will find an item that is that colour to show me what she wants to be mixed. She also makes up her own colours, dipping brushes from mug to mug and watching the colour change then using it on the paper, sometimes even mixing on the paper itself.

– I then add water and she tests it out, on many occasions she will take it back to the sink if its not the right consistency.

– Iris paints with high flicks, dots, dabs, using fine paintbrushes with a careful attention to detail or large brushes in sweeping motions.  She uses rollers (textured rollers, straight lines are created by those), stamps, and a range of brushes and sponges.

– When she is finsihed for that session she puts her tools down in the mug and leaves the table, waits for the painting to dry and then goes back to it to do some more.

If I notice she isn’t interested anymore in the painting I will ask her if its finished and if there is no response I start to take it off the table and I have somewhere in my office where I store them. She will either stop me doing that if its not finished or let it go. She sometimes does a little jig/dance to indicate she is pleased with it and sometimes she will take a piece back to the table if she feels it needs more.

Who names the Paintings ?
We used to name the paintings as Iris didn’t speak, we made them relevant to what they look like or how she felt while painting them or the music she was listening to at the time. Now Iris is speaking more she is naming them herself.

60 thoughts on “About

  1. Sarah Henjum says:

    Absolutely stunning art! Like Monet is guiding her hands. Your efforts to provide your beautiful daughter with tools for communicating and interacting with the world around her are to be commended.
    Has she ever had an opportunity to to therapeutic horseback riding? The program I used to help run had many miraculous stories of young children speaking and/or walking for the first time. It taught out autistic spectrum students how to interact with their horse, volunteers and fellow students.
    Looking forward to seeing more beautiful art from Iris.

    • Carter-Johnson says:

      Thankyou Sarah for your kind words, we have tried Equine Therapy but a couple of years ago now, we have booked in a few sessions this summer to see if Iris shows anymore interest as she didn’t seem to be that keen when we first tried. I have seen though, how amazing animals can be at encouraging communication with her Maine Coon Kitten, their relationship is beautiful to watch.

  2. Marcia Higgins says:

    Iris Grace is an amazing child. Your patience, understanding and love have helped her bloom. I have only met one person with Autism. He was the 23 year old son of a co-worker. Your daughter has given me a totally different view of Autism. To say I was ignorant is an understatement. Thank you for sharing your journey with Iris Grace. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose eyes and heart have been opened. <3

  3. Carter-Johnson says:

    Hi, She names a few of them but mostly I name them. They are always relevant to what was happening when she painted them or her inspiration. There are some stories in the blog section of the website.

  4. Kylie Carter says:

    Hi there.
    I have been deeply moved by your story. I once had the pleasure of looking after a little boy with autism and though it was a challenge he was an absolute pleasure to be with. He too was creative in his own unique way.
    I would like to know if any of these pictures are for sale on canvass? I would love to buy one. I find them absolutely amazing, they are also extremely calming I find and I could sit and look at them for hrs lol this wouldnt be a commercial buy pure for my own enjoyment. If you could let ke know id be really grateful. Thanks  

    • Carter-Johnson says:

      Hi Kylie, Thankyou for your interest in Iris’s art and your kind words, we really appreciate it. There are some Canvas prints for sale here – http://www.zazzle.com/irisgracepainting/art I was going to update the site with some more of her recent paintings but it all got rather busy this evening so if there is a particular painting you would like just let me know, you can email me at irisgraceainting@yahoo.com and I will upload it to the zazzle site – http://www.zazzle.com/irisgracepainting/art

      • Yvonne Parsons says:

        I purchased a notebook from the zazzle.com site. I’m so excited to use it at work and show it off. Her paintings are amazing!

        My son has a mild form of Asperger’s and loves to paint as well. It’s wonderful to see how consumed he gets with it. His other interest is math and he was amazed when I told him that you can combine math and art together (shapes, geometry, color, sacred geometry, tessellations…)

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