Introduction: I first became a fan of Artist Justin Chanha, a 19-year old with autism, when I noted that he created the delightful cover art for Just Give Him the Whale, a book that supplies tips on how to use special interests to help a child succeed in an inclusive classroom. Special interests has been my theme at Autism Blog for the last two weeks. Today's spotlight on this talented and successful artist is my grand finale. I hope you enjoy the following updated biography that his mother sent to me earlier this week.
"Justin Canha, 19, is an accomplished artist. He also happens to be autistic.
His childhood passion for drawing animals and cartoon characters revealed an innate talent that attracted the attention of the mainstream art community when Justin was 14 years old.
Justin explores a wide range of subjects that showcase his clever sense of humor and unusual sensitivity to human and animal relationships. Using characters all his own, Justin's computer animations are full of action-packed stories, while his paintings celebrate still life and portraiture. His charcoal drawings have an innocent and ethereal quality that capture, for example, poignant moments between friends or love between mother and child.
In sum, Justin's illustrations demonstrate the intensity and perspective of the autistic mind and serve as a powerful form of communication.
Represented by the Ricco/Maresca Gallery in NYC, Justin was the featured artist in its Autism/Aspergers Art Exhibit in New York City in January 2005. Justin's animations received an honorable mention by Jerry Saltz, who juried the Studio Montclair Exhibit, "Taboo," in May 2005. Justin's work has also been exhibited at The Cooper Union in New York and at Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ. Justin has had solo exhibits at The Montclair Public Library in Montclair, NJ, Pace University in NYC, at The JCC in Manhattan, and at Bloomfield College in Bloomfield, NJ.
In August 2006, Justin's artwork was featured in Oprah Magazine. Aspects of his autistic and artistic life have been described in two recent documentaries, Autism: A Different Way of Communicating and Sidecars. In January 2008, Justin successfully made his world debut at the Outsider Art Fair in NYC. In April, his artwork was shown at Art Chicago, the world-renowned international contemporary and modern art fair. Justin's artwork [has been] exhibited at the Morris Museum in Timeless: The Art of Drawing in Morristown, NJ.
Illustration commissions include the cover for Paula Kluth's book, Just Give Him the Whale and all the drawings for Pedro's Whale, a children's book by the same author, to be released in 2009. Justin has also been commissioned to illustrate a whole new line of math teaching books for young children on the spectrum called IBET (Integrated Behavioral Experiential Teaching). He is also working on the illustrations for a book entitled, It's Not a Problem, by Ron Pecarek.
Currently a student at Montclair High School, Justin has been taking college level courses in cartooning and animation at Bloomfield College, Montclair State University and Pace University during the past couple of years."
Concluding Thoughts: I'd like to thank Justin's parents for giving me permission to use Justin's photo, emailing me a list of links and for sending me his biography, which is an update of the one on his website. I look forward to taking a look at Justin's artwork which will be featured in the children's book Pedro's Whale, written by Paula Kluth, one of the authors of Just Give Him the Whale. The book, which I hope to review when available, is expected to be released sometime in 2009.
Please take time to visit Justin's website where you can view several of his works done in array of media. It is worth your time. The versatility and talent of this young artist is quite impressive. My favorite group of work was his oils depicting animals in vivid colors, but I also appreciated how much his style changed when he used other art forms such as charcoal.
I'd like to suggest two other sites. The first is the one for Sidecars, and second one is for the Ricco/Maresca Gallery. The first provides a trailer and information about the documentary Sidecars (which features Justin and a friend/art student) and the second website features five of his works and a short bio about Justin. It also provides the options to see either the trailer or the entire version of Sidecars, which was directed by Ben Stamper and produced by Justin's parents.
At 19 years old, Justin already has a career that most artists dream about. I should know as I'm the aunt of neuro-typical two nieces (cousins) who have parents nervous about their chosen fields in art. It is not easy or typical to be successful as an artist, but Justin Canha has managed to establish his place in the field.