Michael Tolleson

I live in the Seattle Metro area where I maintain my studios, offices, and an art center that mentors art to children on the autism spectrum. Shortly I will be opening an art gallery in Redmond, Washington area.

I am 58 years of age, and I was unaware I could paint or that I had autism until several years ago at age 54

I live with my husband, Jack Carl Anderson, who is also on the autism spectrum and who is also an accomplished artist. In addition, he is the chief mentor for the children at our autistic art center.

Having found out about my autism and my ability to paint late in life, I spend 100% of my time creating, reaching out to spread autism awareness, or painting/speaking live at various autism conferences and benefits. High functioning Asperger’s comes with a very active mind that is active from the moment you wake up till you go to sleep, so I use that trait to process all incoming information and use it in various ways to bring awareness about autism.

I am an artist, author, speaker, and advocate. My subjects are varied: Horses, landscapes, people, ravens… each subject is painted in various styles depending on the composition. I am an autistic savant. I process a visual inspiration such as a photo, and my autism morphs the feeling of the visual into a painting.

Art is my voice.

I paint no painting without an emotional feeling being conveyed and felt by me. Each painting tells the story that my autism has to express at that moment. One of the other benefits has been the response of others with autism or dealing with autism in their families. There is hope that the art brings to their lives for the future and discovering the light within each of us with autism.

The experience of diagnosis and personal realization of who I was and of the abilities of my autism within me, has been startling. From a life of struggling to be understood by others and myself, I now have the basis for answers. While I may not know how my autism creates, I know that it is a miraculous gift.