Raising a Child Prodigy

Meet the de Forests
Eight-year-old Autumn de Forest is a prodigy artist whose paintings have sold for as much as $25,000, but she also attends school and loves to play with Barbie dolls.
Eight-year-old Autumn de Forest is a prodigy artist whose paintings have sold for as much as $25,000, but she also attends school and loves to play with Barbie dolls.
ImaginArt, LLC

It shouldn't have come as a surprise when 5-year-old Autumn de Forest picked up a spare paintbrush and an extra piece of wood while her father was staining some furniture one day in the garage. After all, she was born into an artistic family. But when he turned around a short while later to see Autumn's finished product, even he was quite surprised.

Since then, Autumn's parents, Doug and Katherine, have given their daughter access to the materials that would allow her to fully express her artistic talent, including fine-arts supplies, large canvases and quality oil paints. And by the time she was just 8, Autumn's works were already selling for as much as $25,000 and were being featured at exhibitions and auctions around the nation.

While Autumn's parents have taken great effort to encourage and gently guide their daughter's talent, they've also made sure she engages in plenty of age-appropriate activities. She paints daily for at least an hour or two, but plays with her Barbie dolls, watches reruns of "I Love Lucy" and romps around with her standard poodle, Ginger. She also plays with friends, goes to school (where she enjoys art classes, even though, she says, "They don't really do abstract in school") and lives within strong boundaries required of any 8-year-old child. The world of art and achievement, according to Autumn, is no more or less important than the world of Barbie dolls and playgrounds.

When it comes to facilitating their child's talents, Autumn's parents try to make sure her feet are firmly planted on the ground, while they also teach her to respect the art she creates and the process through which it's created. Boiled down, they say there are three important steps to take with a child prodigy in respect to his or her talent: setting goals, creating victories and developing the skill set. By making early connections between effort and reward, Autumn is able to take great pride in showing off her work at exhibitions to both children her own age and art collectors alike.

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  • Autumn de Forest. (Aug. 20, 2010) http://www.autumndeforest.com/
  • Chillot, Rick. "10 child prodigies (who actually ended up doing something)." Mental Floss. Dec. 10, 2007. (Aug. 25, 2010) http://edition.cnn.com/2007/LIVING/worklife/12/10/mf.child.prodigies/index.html
  • Golomb, Claire. "The development of artistically gifted children: selected case studies." Psychology Press, 1995. ISBN 0805815244, 9780805815245.http://books.google.com/books?id=G_ec1hS7lIAC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false
  • Hancock, David. "Child prodigy, 14, commits suicide." CBS News. Mar. 19, 2005. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/03/18/national/main681735.shtml
  • Quart, Alissa. Hothouse Kids: How the Pressure to Succeed Threatens Childhood. Penguin, 2007. ISBN 0143111914, 9780143111917.http://books.google.com/books?id=nbULR0WHPeQC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false
  • Sachs, Andrea. "The Downside of Being a Child Prodigy." Time. Sep. 6, 2006.http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1532087,00.html
  • Telephone interview with Autumn de Forest. Aug. 20, 2010.
  • Telephone interview with Douglas de Forest. Aug. 20, 2010.
  • Telephone interview with Katherine de Forest. Aug. 20, 2010.
  • The Mozart Project. "Mozart's Life." (Aug. 25, 2010) http://www.mozartproject.org/biography/index.html

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