Glendale - Aidan Dow may have difficulty communicating with his words, but his drawings speak volumes about his personality.
A junior at Nicolet High School, Dow is on the autism spectrum and unable to string more than a couple sentences together at a time. When he's not learning life skills through Nicolet's special education department, he spends most of his free time drawing pictures of elephants, cows and other animals.
By breaking figures down to their simplest form, the 17-year-old self-trained artist uses geometric shapes to depict animals with smiling faces. His mother, Connie Lopez, said the drawings are representative of her son's positive worldview.
"There's something intrinsically happy and innocent in his drawings," she said. "They are easy on the eye, and they leave you with a pleasant feeling. I think his artistic filter shows what his vision is, and it's a positive vision."
Aidan started drawing when he was 5 years old, and in the last 12 years, he has spent so much time crouched over drawing that his mother Connie is more familiar with seeing the top of his curly hair than his face.
As Aidan nears high school graduation, Connie decided to start printing his drawing onto t-shirts through a company called Curly Top Tees. She said she has no idea what to expect from the venture, but she hopes the business will allow Aidan to turn his passion for drawing into a career.
"His art makes me feel like he's found something, and I want to give him a shot at that," she said. "When you are the parent of a person who is disabled, you have to be fearless. I would rather fail miserably than not give this idea a shot."
Connie invested several thousand dollars to print 300 shirts with alligators, elephants, bulls, cows and Aidan's self-portrait. She said she feels like Aidan's drawings are similar to the "Life is good" t-shirts, so there may be a market for them.
Aidan and Connie sold the t-shirts for the first time during Nicolet's Autumn Artisan Fair on Saturday, Nov. 5. The fair is organized by students in the special education program, but Aidan was the only student from the program to sell products at the fair. Proceeds from the event go to the Nicolet special education department's community-based apartment, which students use to learn life skills such as cooking, cleaning and living life independently.
Aidan's t-shirts are available for sale at www.curlytoptees.com. Ten percent of the proceeds go to organizations that help people with disabilities.