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Strokes of genius


Akiane Kramarik, 10, is happy to explain the allegory behind her latest painting, where grizzly bears represent different human traits. At 10, the Post Falls homeschooler is becoming well known for her art, being profiled on Oprah and CNN. She also writes poetry, compiling a book of over 300 poems.
 (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Akiane Kramarik, 10, is happy to explain the allegory behind her latest painting, where grizzly bears represent different human traits. At 10, the Post Falls homeschooler is becoming well known for her art, being profiled on Oprah and CNN. She also writes poetry, compiling a book of over 300 poems. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Photos by Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review

POST FALLS – Akiane Kramarik, a slender 10-year-old, perches on a stool, dwarfed by a huge painting of bears in a vivid green river. Her long blond hair, which she occasionally twists around her fingers, is tied back, revealing a pretty face and big blue eyes. She wears a yellow top and a long flowing white skirt. Her feet are bare. She looks like a typical 10-year-old. Except that Akiane created the painting of the bears, rising at 5 a.m. before her family, so she can start to paint by 5:30 a.m. Except that the painting is an allegory of how people respond to God. Except that Akiane has been featured on “Oprah” and CNN, that she writes poetry and speaks three languages, her mother’s native Lithuanian, English and Russian.

“I would describe her as a strong-willed, light-hearted, absent-minded child,” said Akiane’s mother Foreli Kramarik. Her talent is obvious to art critics as well. “One of the things that impressed us is her ability to be a child one moment, then be a talented individual who can bring forth (all) this,” said Jim Quinn, owner of the Timber Stand Art Gallery in Sandpoint, where Akiane recently had an exhibition. Akiane, whose name means ocean, is a child prodigy. With no formal art training to speak of, she’s been drawing and painting since she was four. She began by sketching faces in pencil and moved on to painting people in oils and acrylics: Jesus, an African woman, a little Asian child, the girl from Afghanistan who was featured on the cover of National Geographic, and her own self-portrait. She also paints animals and landscapes. “Akiane’s ability is way beyond her years,” Quinn said. “I’ve never seen a child paint with the level of detail she can paint with. There’s no doubt in our minds she possesses a unique gift.” What astounded her mother, however, was not Akiane’s talent, but her spiritual awakening. Akiane was 4 when she told her mother that God had spoken to her. “She said, ‘I met God and He took me to heaven,’ ” Kramarik said. “It sounded absurd, primitive. It was a nightmare.” Up until that day, Akiane lived in a home where God was not mentioned. Her mother, born and raised in Lithuania, was an atheist, and her father Marcos was a Catholic who did not discuss religion or God. Did Kramarik consider psychological help for her daughter? She said no. “There was no trance, no ridiculous speech. I never thought she needed a psychiatrist. I know who she is.” Shortly after revealing God spoke to her, Akiane began sketching faces and drew a detailed picture of an angel. “When we are born, the first thing we see is a face of a mother, father, sister or brother,” wrote Akiane in a manuscript that her family is hoping to publish. “We can live without seeing a landscape or a pet or an animal, but we cannot live without seeing or touching faces.” Akiane also wrote a poem about this, titled “The Day I Was Born.” The day I was born I met myself The day I was born I met my young mother The day I was born I met Christ sleeping in my cradle. She did pencil sketches for a few years and then did her first painting of a snow-capped mountain titled “Again I See the Winter” at age 7. Each painting has a corresponding poem, and she has a collection of hundreds of poems, some long, some short, all meaningful and symbolic. At age 8, she wrote: I teach And they run away … I listen And they come … My strength is my silence … Akiane said she continues to be inspired by God. “God gives me a vision. I just paint it. It comes to me like in a dream. In the morning, I tell my mom and dad and they say, ‘Paint it.’ ” Sometimes she gets ideas while praying, which she does every day. She said God instructed her to paint all the human races, hence the little Asian girl and an African brother and sister. She painted Jesus twice. She’s planning another painting depicting Jesus during the missing years, the unknown years from his childhood until he started to preach. “Her connection to the spiritual side of things is important,” Quinn said. “It helps keep her grounded. Her ability to depict emotion is unique.” Akiane began painting solely from imagination but now uses models. Yet she freely makes changes according to her imagination and inspiration. For instance, she used the face of the Afghani girl from a National Geographic cover as a model, but she changed it and gave her blue eyes. “Her eyes are painted blue as a reflection of the American soldier’s eyes who saved her,” Akiane said. Her paintings of landscapes and animals have allegorical spiritual meaning. In the bear picture, seven bears are grouped into five scenarios. Two bears stand with heads raised, representing people who look up to God. One bear roars, depicting people angry with God. Another bear walks off, symbolizing those who ignore God. One bear clenches a fish in its jaws, signifying selfish people focused on their own concerns. Two bears battle, depicting people who fight over things. Akiane’s goal is to use the proceeds from her artwork to benefit impoverished people around the world. Kramarik said the family plans to donate 80- to 90 percent of the proceeds to charity. “[Akiane] wants to draw people to God through her art and keep their attention to God through her poetry.” She already has signed with a literary agent and hopes to publish a book of poetry that includes her biography. Akiane’s three brothers, ages 13, 11 and 3, don’t paint or write at the level she does, and her parents aren’t especially artistic either. Her father is a dietary manager for a local hospital, and her mother takes care of the children. Kramarik used to paint but hasn’t held a brush in 15 years. Akiane attended public school in the past but is home-schooled now so she has more time to paint. It takes her 100 to 150 hours to complete a painting. She elicits laughs when she recalls public school art class. “They played with glitter. They cut papers and pasted them to other papers.” Akiane drew faces and made a collage. “I showed it to the teacher, and she said, ‘Can you teach these children? I’ll be your student.’ A week later I said to my mom, ‘I want to be home-schooled.’ ” She attended an adult art class but quit after one session when the instructor wanted to hold her hand to draw for her. “It wouldn’t be my painting; it would be hers,” Akiane said, adding that she continues to communicate with God. Her family now considers themselves Christians but accept all faiths and after attending many churches did not find a church that was the right fit. “God wants her art to show certain things to certain people,” Kramarik said. “Some will come through literature, through painting, through the child.”

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