Kieron Williamson turns 8 today, a benchmark to be celebrated with family and friends. But outside of his family circle in the tiny British market town of Holt, the art world is celebrating Kieron’s startling proficiency with water colors, pastels and oils.
London’s Daily Mail dubbed Kieron “Mini Monet” after Kieron raked in $235,804 (150,000 British pounds) at a gallery show in his hometown, where all 33 of the works exhibited sold in under a half hour.
Adrian Hill, co-owner of the Picturecraft Gallery in Holt where the sale was conducted, says the name Picasso springs to mind when it comes to the artistic prodigy. “He is red-hot,” Hill told the Daily Mail. “I believe the last child artist in this bracket was Picasso. And Kieron is getting better and better and better. He has a very mature hand and has mastered certain techniques at an early stage which some artists would take years to perfect.”
Sudden inspiration at 5Kieron’s folks Keith and Michelle say in most respects, Kieron is your typical youth: He enjoys swimming and fishing and playing computer games, and loves nothing so much as kicking a soccer ball around with his schoolmates.
And when it comes to his artistic bent, Michelle Williamson told NBC News that for years, Kieron also drew like any other young child. “We used to have to draw dinosaurs for him to color in.”
That all changed on a family vacation to Devon and Cornwall in May 2008. Inspired by the scenery, he asked his parents for paper so he could copy what he saw.
“First pictures that he did were what any 5-year-old would do,” Michelle told NBC. “It was the time, and level of concentration that he put into doing it; that was the turning point. It was like a switch. We never thought he would continue drawing after the holiday. He just improved.”
Kieron improved so much, so quickly the family enrolled him in art classes, and his talent grew exponentially. Art experts began praising his work, saying Kieron’s atmospheric paintings showed the perspective, shadow and reflections of a master.
Flying off the walls
The first sign something seriously big was afoot came last summer, when Kieron first exhibited his art at the Picturecraft Gallery. He earned $22,338 (14,000 British pounds) for 19 of his paintings.
In December, Kieron had his second exhibition at the gallery: it expected to show his paintings for a month, but each and every work was snapped up within 15 minutes of the gallery opening. The paintings, which netted $27,125 (17,000 British pounds), flew off the gallery walls so fast that Kieron’s mom didn’t even get a chance to view the exhibition.
By the time last week’s third exhibit opened, Kieron was a full-fledged phenomenon. Buyers from as far away as New York City and South Africa came for the sale; a couple from Philadelphia camped out for two days outside the gallery for the chance to snatch up one of his works.
“The overwhelming sense of wonder is so many people have traveled to see this young man’s paintings,” gallery co-owner Hill said. “There’s no one painting that’s as young as Kieron is.”
Mom Michelle told NBC she suspects art buyers are trying to get in on the next big thing. “I think there’s a mixture of people who have gotten backgrounds in investments and do it as purely a speculative thing … a majority of people are just taken aback that he can produce nice paintings given his age.”
Michelle Williamson added that some 2,000 people are on waiting lists for the chance to buy Kieron’s work. And at the rate he paints, he may be able to satisfy them all; as prolific as he is proficient, Kieron sometimes completes as many as six works in a single week.
Landscape specialistWhile the Williamson family loves art — dad Keith is an art dealer and they have their own collection hanging in their home — Kieron’s folks are still sometimes left scratching their heads over their son’s talent. He seems to especially love to paint coastal scenes and rural landscapes.
“We often think about why Kieron has chosen art in this way, and I think it’s because we live in a top-floor flat and we have no garden or outside space,” Michelle told the Daily Mail. “So perhaps he’s had to create his own scenery.”
Mom may be onto something. Young Kieron told the paper, “I like painting because it’s fun and inspiring. It makes me think of places I can’t see.”
Kieron’s mother bristles at any suggestion they are artistic stage parents: She insists Kieron paints only when he wants to, with no prodding from her or father Keith. And besides, Kieron is feisty.
“You couldn’t get him to do anything he doesn’t want to do,” Michelle told NBC. “It’s quite a learning curve for me and Keith because we’re not artists. We can’t get inside his head.”
Young Kieron adds, “Painting is my favorite hobby — but I like football as well.”
Kyle Miller contributed reporting to this story.