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Richard Wawro

Richard Wawro (pronounced “Vavro”) produced thousands of realistic drawings with oil crayons, despite being born with severe disabilities.  

He was born in 1952 with cataracts in both eyes. His parents were told he was severely retarded. He showed compulsive behaviors, such as walking in circles, spinning objects, and striking the same piano key repeatedly for hours. He didn’t speak, but would shriek if his expected routine was disturbed.

One of his early teachers, Molly Leishman, noticed that six-year old Richard showed a fascination with moving lights. She had been persuaded to take Richard on at the Fife Occupational Centre where she worked in Scotland because she was impressed with his mother Olive’s quiet determination to find some kind of education for him.

One day Mrs. Leishman gave Richard a large red crayon and encouraged him to make marks on a paper. Richard was resistant at first but eventually got the idea. He put his head down so his eyes were only a few inches away from the paper. The teacher wasn’t prepared for what she would see when she came back across the classroom to check on his drawing’s progress.

Richard’s very first picture took Lieshman’s breath away. Where other children were merely making stick figures, Richard had drawn an impressionist image-- in only a few strokes-- of a running kangaroo in full motion. “I couldn’t believe my eyes. What I saw was magic,” said Mrs. Leishman. To make sure it wasn’t simply a one-time fluke, she watched Richard produce several more equally amazing drawings.

Since those early years, Richard has produced thousands of works using oil crayon. He has had dozens of international art exhibitions, and has been the subject of television programs and films. Dr. Laurence Becker produced With Eyes Wide Open, a feature-length film, which explores the obvious contradiction: how could someone like Richard, presumed to be mentally retarded, be able to create such wonderful artworks? This film also analyzes dozens of Richard’s drawings which help unlock the mystery of his sophisticated cognitive processes that he uses to create his art.

See more of Richard Wawro’s artworks at:

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