When she was a young girl, Callie Graham of Bailey escaped the frustrations associated with dyslexia by entering her “art world.”
Now, at age 15, art is the dominant theme in her world — and the arena where she excels.
Callie’s drawings are on display in “The Dreams Within Us,” an exhibit at Shadow Mountain Gallery in Evergreen. The 15-year-old’s work — pencil drawings primarily of characters from “Lord of the Rings” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” — will be on exhibit until April 21.
The fact that Callie is only 15 and has never had an art lesson isn’t the most remarkable thing about this young artist’s story.
“When Callie was in third grade, we found out that she was dyslexic,” said Cheri Graham, Callie’s mother. “I went into the principal’s office and was shown her tests and classwork.”
Cheri said the borders around her 9-year-old daughter’s assignments were filled with fairies and medieval images that she had drawn.
“Even at that age, when she was discouraged, she would escape into her ‘art world,’ ” Cheri said.
Cheri and her husband, Rick, decided to start home-schooling Callie and provided her a nurturing learning environment and the chance to continue working on her drawings.
A turning point for Callie was when she saw “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy at age 11.
“I watched the first ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie and was obsessed,” Callie said.
She started sketching characters from the movie, along with characters from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films.
“Anything medieval or renaissance-themed is totally on my level,” she said. “I started finding cool and interesting pictures and would just draw them. I just kept doing it.”
Her hard work paid off. Last summer, a family friend from church invited Callie to showcase a small exhibit at the River Canyon Gallery in Bailey. Mike Felix, a featured artist at Evergreen’s Shadow Mountain Gallery, saw Callie’s work and spoke to Don Fairchild, chairman of exhibits at Shadow Mountain.
“After I saw her work last year, I asked if she would be able to do a show this year,” Fairchild said. “Her work is extraordinarily impressive for someone her age. She displays a great talent and sensitivity to details.”
Callie now has a large catalog of pieces — portraits of Captain Jack Sparrow, elves, and even one of Audrey Hepburn. She’s begun to use her friends for inspiration. Callie recently “transformed” her friend McKenna into an elf for one of her larger pieces, “Elfish Beauty.”
“I’m always branching out and trying to find more friends and photos to draw,” Callie said.
The artistic gene also found Callie’s older sister Katie, 17.
“Katie likes music — she plays guitar and sings,” Callie said. “My mom and dad aren’t very artistic. They always ask, ‘Where did these two kids come from?’ ”
When not honing her skills as an artist, Callie said she likes to be a regular kid.
“If I’m not doing art, I like to stay at home and be lazy or go to a friend’s house,” she said. “I also love to be with my family because they’ve always been so encouraging.”
Callie has begun to branch out into photography and wants to pursue other artistic media. Although she hasn’t decided on which art school to attend, Callie knows she wants to be a professional artist.
“(As parents), Rick and I have spent a lot of time buying erasers and sharpening pencils,” Cheri said with a smile. “She has her own space at home to draw and create. We’ve always encouraged her to do her best.”
At her exhibit’s opening, the 15-year-old answered questions about her work with the grace of a professional but still found time to joke with friends who came to support her.
“I’m very proud of her,” Cheri said. “Even with all of the difficulty in her life, she has stayed with it. It’s what she loves.”
Contact Daniel Laverty at Daniel@evergreenco.comor at 303-350-1043. Follow him on Twitter at @LavertyReports.
To see Callie Graham’s work …
Shadow Mountain Gallery is located at 28186 Highway 74, Suite 2, in Evergreen. Callie Graham’s artworks will be on display until April 21 and are available to purchase. For more information, call 303-670-3488 or visit www.shadowmountaingallery.com.