Kevin Hosseini produces four to five canvases a month, he sells rather well, and his calendar is booked with show openings both in town and as far afield as St. Petersburg, Russia.
One thing is certain about the 18-year-old Carpinteria artist: autism isn’t holding him back.
The St. Petersburg show came about when Mr. Hosseini won a competition for autistic artists put on by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The exhibit has traveled around the world, but the Russian Museum invited him to submit a second painting.
“I felt good to have my artwork in Russia,” Mr. Hosseini said. “I felt like I’m making progress in becoming famous.”
This started under the tutelage of UCSB Autism Center therapist Colin Zimbleman, who uses art as a way to draw autistic children out of their shells.
Some find it easier to talk while painting, others find it beneficial to be around others doing the same thing. Mr. Hosseini started painting under his guidance at 9 years old and just took off, delivering two paintings a week for four years under Dr. Zimbleman’s care.
On the autistic spectrum, Mr. Hosseini, who graduated high school this year and now attends SBCC in a transitional program – and has a side job at a pizza parlor – is somewhere in the middle, according to his mother. Every autistic child is different, but social skills are one common theme.
“It started out as socialization therapy and turned into this huge portfolio of work,” Debra Hosseini said. “Art helps him a lot because his mind is very busy. It helps him get off preoccupations and obsessions.”
Mr. Hosseini works in both acrylics and oils, and loves thick amounts of paint. He works in his dad’s garage, and sometimes paints in the plein air style on the Carpinteria Bluffs.
These representational but impressionistic works display skilled concepts of composition, color, and form. He paints animals, cities, landscapes, and portraits, many of which cane be viewed at his website, kevingallery.com. Even Mr. Hosseini’s earliest work, a self-portrait, looks like he came to the canvas with his style fully formed.
He counts turn-of-the-century realist painter George Bellows as a favorite – seen on his trip to the Smithsonian – and impressionist Vincent Van Gogh as another.
When asked about his favorite colors, Mr. Hosseini says, “I like green and red and that’s about it.”
Mrs. Hosseini says her son doesn’t become very attached to his work, moving from one work to the next, so she wanted to get his work into various shows. Invitations soon started pouring in.
Mrs. Hosseini started curating not just Mr. Hosseini’s work, but other artists on the autistic spectrum, and her roster now includes 300 artists in 35 countries. She’s also a founding member and officer of the Autism Society of Santa Barbara, The Rhythmic Arts Project, and Project Angels Bearing Gifts, as well as the author of several books on the subject.
For those interested in seeing Mr. Hosseini’s art, he currently has 15 permanent pieces hanging at UCSB’s Koegel Autism Center. He has shows upcoming at Faulkner Gallery’s ArtWalk for Kids in May, at the Bohemia Coffee House in Ojai in March, in Morro Bay in April, and the at the Temple Grandin Conference in Glendale next year. On top of that, they are leaving this week for a show in Colorado and next year for a show in Massachusetts.
Last year he had work shown in China and in Paris.
Next year, however, “he wants to be in Paris,” Mrs. Hosseini said. “So we’ve been looking into that if we can find the venue.”