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Irish artist's painting to appear on UN stamp for autism awareness

Autistic painter Colm Isherwood’s piece is one of just eight chosen for the World Autism Day collection.

Colm's painting (far right) on the UN stamp.
Colm's painting (far right) on the UN stamp.
Image: United Nations Postal Administration

A PAINTING BY Irish artist Colm Isherwood has been chosen by the United Nations for use on one of its new stamps to raise awareness about autism.

The Cork man’s painting was one of just eight pieces selected following a worldwide search for talented artists with autism.

“It was an extremely difficult and challenging process to choose just eight designs from all the artwork submitted,” said Rorie Katz, the creative director at the United Nations Postal Administration said.

All of us were personally touched by the stories of the artists and their families who are extremely passionate and supportive about raising awareness for autism.”

Colm and his twin brother Eric have severe autism which means they have few ways to communicate with the people around them.

The 25-year-olds cannot talk, read or write but they understand others.

“That is a huge frustration,” Eric Isherwood, the twins father, told TheJournal.ie.

A picture system is used to allow both Colm and Eric to portray their wishes and needs to their parents.

Breakthrough

Since taking up painting about two years ago, art has given Colm a new outlet.

“There were behavioural issues there as Colm would lash out every now and then but since the art that has declined completely,” explains Isherwood.

He was telling us in his own way that he was frustrated and needed something.”

Currently, Colm is working hard on producing more paintings for a planned exhibition which will hopefully coincide with the launch of the UN stamp collection in April.

He has already finished ten paintings and was working on another as we spoke with his father today.

In 2010, Colm sold 10 out of 12 paintings he exhibited at a show in the Cork Institute of Technology. That was his first ever exhibition.

Opportunities

When the UN started to look for applications in September, the Isherwoods jumped at the chance to show off their son’s talent again and submitted a number of paintings.

“What is remarkable,” said Eric, “Is that his was the only one chosen from outside the United States and Canada.”

Colm has been working with his teacher Aine Crawley on his painting and she has been a huge influence on his life and work. Depending on his mood, their sessions can last anywhere between 15 minutes and three hours.

His work features a variety of materials, as well as a mix of techniques to create texture. The UN describes his paintings as sensory and tactile.

From layering paint to dripping it, using his hands or objects such as balloons and piping bags, Colm has a great sense for colour. In his work, every colour seems to compliment the next.

As for Colm’s brother Eric, music takes priority over art.

“He is too laid back for painting,” jokes Eric senior. “We try to get him motivated but he is more into music. He collects CDs from the local store and that’s his thing.”

Awareness campaign

The UN project was designed to showcase the artwork of people with autism to educate others of their passion, creativity and talent.

Colm’s father said that both the stamps and the artists will help raise awareness about the important global cause.

The stamps will be available from 2 April (World Autism Day) and can be bought online here. Stamps in euro denominations are valid for postage only if mailed at the Vienna International Centre, Austria.

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