I watched the popular 2007 documentary My Kid Could Paint That over the weekend, and I came away very interested, stimulated, and impressed. The story is one of a 4 year old child, Marla Olmstead, who executes beautiful abstract paintings on large (for her size) canvases. They sell for upwards of $20,000. Something funny though; whenever a camera was recording Marla paint, the work she did was sub-par. It looked like what it was, a four year old girl getting dirty and smearing paint over a canvas. The end results were not, seemingly, as good as the other paintings she’d produced and sold. Her parents explained it away by saying she was nervous, she did silly things, etc. Here the plot thickens; the father is an amateur artist himself. 60 Minutes did an expose on the family, essentially declaring Marla a fraud. The Olmsteads retaliated by releasing their own DVD, The Making of Ocean, which shows Marla making a painting from beginning to end, apparently with no help. This was the result:

For a child not yet old enough for Kindergarden, that’s not bad at all. But is it art? One of the more essential questions asked in the doc is: What is the worth of modern art? If “your kid could paint that,” does that mean it’s not art? Is a 4 year old capable of great art, of interpretive genius? Do you measure worth through the value of the paintings?

Look again at Ocean. Notice a few things about it.

The lines on the painting are mostly thick. With a few variations, the lines are thick and unsteady. The colors are unsophisticated in a cohesive sense. We see very little mixing between colors, between “zones.” When color is mixed, it’s not done with a deft or sophisticated sense; it’s merely on top of another color, or smeared. There are no brushstrokes, no clear intermingling of complimentary color. There are Mickey Mouse ears.

Now look at some of Marla’s other paintings; paintings which have sold for huge amounts of money, and which the Olmsteads claim she did herself, with no help or input whatsoever.

Take note of the fine, thin lines. The sophisticated mixing of colors to achieve the muted backgrounds. Note how the backgrounds fade into one another. Notice how the colors are complimentary. Notice how the same symbols are repeated with integrity and reasonable precision.

Here we have a super-advanced sense of blending, color, brushwork, and, again, complimentary color.

Decide for yourself. Decide this as well; how do we judge modern art?

My Kid Could Paint That was directed by Amir Bar-Lev.

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38 Responses to “Marla Olmstead Paintings: My Kid Could Paint That”

  1. June says:

    I don’t know where I’ve been but I just found out about this kid and the controversary surround “her” paintings. I definitely want to rent this video and judge for myself… or not. That being said, I think “Ocean” is a pretty sophisticated piece for a four-year-old. I also think there may be a significant gap between the time she painted Ocean and the last two pics you posted. I believe she is now 10 years old? In any case, if this kid continues to log as many hours paintings as she has already, she may very well earn her place in the art community without controversy. I know that seems simplistic, but as many of us who cultivate an art practise know that more than half the battle is showing up at the canvas or page. (Think Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory in relation to the sucess of the Beattles, etc.) Only when we show up can magical things happen and it seems that this kid is showing up — presumably because she’s interested and engaged. But, she may have to wait until she is a respectable, but still novel, 20-25 years of age before people will start believing that she can indeed paint.

  2. Steve says:

    I saw the documentary and any fool can see that the father painted the more sophisticated ones. 60 Minutes was right on the money. The mother is either very stupid or naive. She states she would never let me husband influence Marla, although they hardly see each other because they work separate shifts. And the father is a greedy lying bastard, who managed to fool the right people. This is a joke. The art is not good, the kid is not gifted, and the people that bought these paintings were ripped off.

  3. I don’t usually write blog comments, but I had to praise this article. Fantastic post.

  4. jackson pollock says:

    For fun, I recreated the last painting myself, and one of the interesting things about it is the horizontal rhythm. Note the sort of “rays” of blue at the top. I think that came from running a roller over the wet paint that was already down.

    The white figure in the lower middle is echoed in the lower right, closely enough that I felt as if the canvas had been folded on itself at one point, and picked up an inking of one image in a different spot.

    The fine blending of colors in “Forest” look as if they were done by dropping paint on the canvas and then moving it around with small fingers, rather than a brush, something we saw Marla do in several of the videos.

    Those aren’t complicated techniques, but the results look complicated, and they’re unconventional. If you start with the assumption that Marla paints using a brush and a palette like trained painters, then you taint your opinion of how much skill is needed to get the shown results.

  5. LoeilAlice says:

    Hello, I just watched the film My Kid Could Paint That.

    First of all, I agree with what the New York Times art critic said in the film about the origins of an artwork and its process being almost tantamount to the visible technique.

    My first observation is that everyone is calling it “abstract”. People call things this when there are no visibly figurative things, no obvious representational elements. When I heard the art collector who had bought a painting of Marla’s talk about the blue door in the corner of her painting and brushing off the fact that Marla didn’t acknowledge it, I almost fell off my sofa laughing. Does he not know that people will find what they want when they search for meaning—anywhere, in anything.. Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich? Anyone? Anyone? Come on, sir, join the 21st century!
    Also, I’m betting that the chances are a million to one that Marla didn’t see a door herself!! Much less a fetus face! Didn’t intend either.

    Children are not capable at this age of abstract thought or abstract reasoning and that is what it takes to make purposeful abstract art. In all my 19 years of teaching art classes to children ages 6 to 10, I have NEVER, EVER, seen a child spontaneously create what adults call abstract art.
    I have explained the process to children age 10 and had them do a series of drawings and paintings working from the concrete to the “purged”, simplified versions, by removing all of the “hints” of recognizable objects, but this is as close as it gets….and all of this was MY idea. I only intended to let them see how things can be done.

    Color mixing ends up looking abstract until a child adds a curve here, of a different color, or a square there, and suddenly sees the house or the face and then usually ends up constructing a story-composition. But sometimes not – they might become vagabonds upon the surface of their paper – totally in the present, dreaming from one color to the next, dreaming into the discoveries of new colors, shapes, and lines. All of this may look abstract to an adult, but one must not consider it abstract art, as it is not at all intentional.
    I have seen children at age 6 compose elements remarkably well in the space of a sheet of paper. So, composition is not necessarily an argument to debunk Marla’s authenticity.

    Children live their lives based in hard reality, in which they take pleasure in creating fantasy, which is often centered around solid things- tree, birds, themselves – and out of which they concoct stories and artwork containing wishes or desires to eradicate fears: flying, magic, fear of the darkness under the bed at night, or of the noise of the leaves outside in the wind.
    But to create abstraction, it means taking something to a another level, which could imply several different approaches: beginning from a real, perceived, and/or concrete thing and breaking it down to its essence of color, line, or a personal feeling about its color, essence, etc

    Or, it could mean beginning as Kandinsky did, by improvising, beginning with a particular idea, a gesture, a color and then reacting as the painting happens. Painting can sometime be only a process which is brought to a conclusion.

    One thing not mentioned enough in the documentary is what I believed happened and perhaps still happens in Marla’s life. Her father said he rarely pushed her, but I do not believe him. Just watch the way Marla answers when he talks to her – it is like a child who has been encouraged too tenaciously to do her painting. She talks about not painting a green painting, and her comments hit me like a rock when towards the end she asks her father what to paint. !!!
    I don’t think a child “high” on her “passion”, which is painting, would react this way. If she was bored, she’d just stop. She’d probably become VERY protective, maybe even defensive about her paintings, but she shows none of this.
    NONE.
    Ever.

    And lastly, most people do not realize how easy it is to “coach” a child creating artwork. I have been very aware of this, as it is a thing which is highly tempting to an adult watching, who might have a notion of what their work in progress might become. I have stopped myself more than once when I’ve wanted to tell a student something like “Why don’t you add some blue over there?”
    I believe Marla’s father is always over her, in and out of the room, as she works, not only suggesting, but putting out certain colors, giving her certain tools – -all of these interferences are incredibly influential on the outcome of a child’s artwork; the mother is undoubtedly very seldom there, or less than the father when Marla paints, . I’ll be that the father makes his comments and suggestions softly or quietly, when the mom is not listening. It is Oh so easy to do – and this is her father!
    Children will go to such lengths to please their parents.

    So, only the future will tell us….either Marla will rebel one day and want her work to be her own, or she will stop doing artwork. I cannot imagine that she will continue past childhood accepting her father’s interventions.
    Only then will we know the truth about her supposed talent, her genius.

    Picasso was precocious because he spent hours observing his artist father’s work and then did the long apprenticeship that most artists do- sketching and drawing from real life. When he was 12, his painting of a child’s first communion was prodigious – in realism, in choice of color, but especially in skill . It couldn’t have been faked, this kind of art, because later we saw the results of his evolution and eventually, a highly inventive artist whose wish was to one day paint “like a child”– with spontaneity, play, and passion.
    Picasso succeeded.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I just watched the documentary and believe that LoellAlice’s comment is an on spot analysis regarding the “prodigy” of Marla and the involvement of her family. What is most noticeable is that Marla, though an adorable child, does not take pride in her work. As far as age development, she is unremarkable in motor and communication skills. Therefore, we are talking about a child who does not show any precocious behavior outside of the produced paintings, paintings she doesn’t seem to own emotionally and at times seems to refuse ownership.

      It is sad to see how often Marla looks worried, particulary when going into one of the gallery shows, how she avoids questions – clearly uncomfortable beyond being just shy. She does comes across as a child who has been coaxed by a parent as to what to say and what not to say which is demonstrated when she keeps trying to tell her father that her brother created the “green one” and the father continually interrupts her as if to stop her from being heard.

      It is an excellent documentary and the filmaker goes to great effort to present Marla in the best light possible – to avoid directly embarrassing her in any way. Rather, he presents a fascinating look at adults in the art world. Be sure and watch the features on the DVD version of “My Kid Could Paint This.” When the father holds up Marla’s simple crayon drawings on 8×10 sheets of paper and tries to explain why they are unique, you really will say “My kid can draw that” or even – “Hey, my 4 year old drew something like that just yesterday!”

      While I firmly believe the father not only directed his daughter what to paint, I also believe he “finished” the paintings. Still, I am oddly sympathetic toward the father. It seems like something that started as a fun “let’s hang an abstract painting in the local coffee house to show that people can be duped by abstract art” got out of hand in a big way, especially with the enticement of lots of money.

      I believe the reason the mother is so skeptical from the start is because she doubts her daughter was solely responsible for the paintings but turns a blind eye.

      Someday, Marla will tell the real story.

    • sheila santa says:

      I am an elementary teacher of 30 years, teaching Kindergarten, Grade one, Grade two and more. When I first saw the documentary on Marla, I was fascinated. There is a part in my heart that believes she has a special gift. When I put paint out in my classroom, I have seen children investigate on every level; fingers, brushes, water, paper, or whatever else I could provide that day. What I know is that they will completely discover and begin to mix colours and create as children do. Some of my childrens’ work looks amazing while they are working.
      However, young children don’t know when to stop. Therefore, the final result is a mess of brown. They’ve had a great day and it was great fun, but now it certainly isn’t art on any level. Marla’s work is beautiful. I guess what I am wondering is; did someone tell her when to stop, or was that her decision? If it was her’s then she is very special.

  6. Shellie says:

    I think that most of the comments I have read are way too judgemental. Any child offered a properly prepared/primed canvas, the right assortment of colours to choose from, and the proper tools given the right encouragement can do amazing works of art. Especially, if you encourage a child by doing your own projects or working on projects together. Naturally, you might suggest a topic and offer certain color boundries to work in. And true, many children will not do it no matter what you encourage them to do whereas others will do art for hours at a time.

    I am an amature artist, and my own daughter is very creative. I have rolled out paper by the yard for finger painting parties when they were very very young. We considered it playing and came up with some really amazing art. I feel very sad that the Omsteads are painted into a corner now. If they ever admit that even one painting was done together people will discredit all of Marla’s Art. Some people may even ask for the money back. Surely, a beautiful painting is still beautiful created by either one artist or 2. The beauty of these paintings is what a child can do while playing. Imagine how many great artist there would be if we would all sacrafice our wine and cigaretts to buy art supplies for our kids to play with, and spent time encouraging them and supporting them.

    What I see way to often is people hanging over there kids complaining about the mess and being way to critical. I remember 2 things as a child. My father was a professional artist, and I would refuse to paint because my art could not match his. I also remember this hidious abstract painting my dad made with leftover oils that people would always offer him money for. One mans art is anouther mans drip cloth. If people are willing to pay $25,000.00 for something they could do, but are to lazy or lack the motivation then the artist deserves that money no matter how they made the art.

    I cannot wait to see if all this media negativity sucks any desire marla ever had to paint right out of her, and I am sure that 60 minutes will blame it on the parents for pushing the girl to hard. Hang in there Omsteads

    The joke is they called her great, and now the are calling her a fraud so they don’t look stupid. Even if her dad did paint those painting they are still alot prettier than much of the crap I regularly see in the gallaries.

    Now I consider myself an artist even though I have never published, and I will never be as good as my father who is a nobody (a sign painter). Marla you will always be a great artist to me. I love you Marla. You are my new inspiration, and now my favorite artist ever, and I don’t care if your dad helped you or not. All I know is I could never handle the critics as well as you have, but thank God you have them because they will make you rich.

    • Liz says:

      Having taught Art to young children I have never seen a spontaneous painting without the colors being mixed into a muddy mess or spots of random color without any sense of form, arrangement or design. But I can concur that children can be taught to dab or squeeze paint in various areas of the canvas. I agree that there was a lot of coaching going on by the father and paintings were either painted by him or paint was added to enhance the work done. Canvases of that size are not even reachable to paint on by a 4 year old. The lines that Marla painted were far too sophisticated and controlled for a young child.

  7. JA says:

    The twirly designs in the second painting from the top and their precise, longitudinal repition within the painting are beyond the fine motor skills, if not attention span, of a four year old. Period. The bottom two paintings look like some adult’s idea of what should belong in the lobby of a Marriott. Marla’s parents should be ashamed of thenselves. Likewise Charlie Rose.

  8. Stan says:

    Marla is a fraud. She was exploited by her parents and a ruthless, greedy opportunist named Anthony Brunelli. He portrays himself as a shameless self-promoter in the film.

    Let’s be serious…Brunelli and the father are long-time friends. The father is a frustrated painter who works the late shift at the local Frito-Lay plant. He might be talented, but his story has no pizazz. However, if he claims his 4 year old daughter did the paintings….well that’s a story that sells.

    They used the little girl…plain and simple.

    The only person who comes across sympathetic in the film is the mother. You can tell she was uneasy about the whole thing, but she got seduced by the attention and the limos and the TV appearances.

    The most telling part of the film is when the frustrated father yells at Marla telling her to “use the red….paint with the red.”

    I feel sorry for her.

  9. Jess8686 says:

    I’ve just seen the documentary for the first time and am looking to see what Marla is up to now. I just want to share my thoughts, from a mother and amateur artists perspective.

    Regarding the variance of technique, color usage, etc. etc. one of the most interesting things about working with paint is trying out different brush strokes whether that be thick or thin, solid or gradient, splatter or realistic. I couldn’t imagine my son wanting to perfect his ‘style’ or ‘take pride’ in his originality the way that an adult artist would.

    Additionally, I have yet to hear anyone use the term toddler or preschooler. Although the artwork is sophisticated, Marla is still a child with all of the mood swings, acting out, and occasional fibs that come with it. But time after time her and her younger brother made reference to the fact that it was Marla’s paintings, except on a couple occasions. In my experience children are not sophisticated liars. At least not for an extended period of time.

    If Marla was influenced by her father, I see nothing wrong with that. Most painters have a mentor that they turn to for advice. The film showed Marla asking ‘tell me what to do or tell me I’m finished.’ Well, in my college painting class probably 50% of the students (majoring in art) said something similar to the professor or the peers. ‘Do you think it’s finished? Tell me what I should do.’ That’s normal, and in my opinion in no way compromises the integrity of the work.

    Now, what I personally see as Marla’s gift over that of other children is her sense of color and movement. That is something that I believe you can be born with, or that you can learn over time.

    I truly hope that the ‘art world’ doesn’t eat away at this little girls innocence. I can’t wait to see her work in the future when she learns about art history and technique. She will always have people disputing her and pushing her down, but then so does every creative individual.

  10. Cowards die many times before their deaths

  11. Realist251 says:

    Any fool who believes that this child painted any of these paintings besides the very childish looking ones captured in the film (you know…the ones with the mickey mouse ears), deserves to be parted from their money. This helps expose the ridiculousness that is “modern art” and the frauds that buy into the entire sham!

    Morons!

  12. R L Flucker says:

    Art is what you see. If it ques your interest, it means something to you, or it offers insite to whatever, or well, there it is. How it was made or who made it doesn’t matter. It does occur that some people create many things which are attractive to a large audience, for whatever reason. Marla has. Possibly she has had the assistance of her father who has bought the paints, purchased the canvases, laid out the covering on the kitchen floor or given her the plastic gloves or suggested pulling the brush not pushing it, some assistance. Certainly he did not grind the pigments for her. Nor has any 20th century painter ground his ownb pigments and manufactured his own paints. But the for the person who acquisitions one of her workes the question isnot what did her father do but does it bring me joy, or insight, or some other satisfaction.

    It is inappropriate for the critic to judge art work as say “good” or “bad” but rather to explain clearly and openly, to those who probably do not know, the cultural, aesthetic or historical background in which the work has been created. And, to comment whether it is in keeping with the environment of its createion. But it is up to the viewer to decide if the work brings understanding or joy or some other feeling. If so, enough said..

    Criticism is difficult terrain. However in the case of Marla I would suggest that we look as each painting and ask, does it do arouse some interest on our part. Don’t worry about what others say. Just enjoy it, or turn the page.

    Ron Flucker

    • Amin says:

      Assistant did not mean stuff like laying out the canvas but interfering with the art work. The child was unable to create the paintings under camera. Father was so obviously doctoring them and pushing for the camera the money and the fame. A fraudster.

      Undue influence renders the work not to be of Marla. The truth matters a lot more than Art and so do humans. A lot of people forget that – when saying oh it doesn’t matter the father doctored the paintings

  13. raphael says:

    Painters since the 11th century have been looking for tricks to help them achieve thier work. Come on now guys if the general pubilc – no hang on a min – the affluent ones who have reached a position in life where they need to show to their peers just how sophisticated they really are actually knew how some of “the best ” realistic painters produced thier work then I fear the art world from a financial point of view would take a big hit . I’ve never seen a Piccasso drawing for all his strenght of line and confidence appear as complex as any of Rembrants offerings . All painters look for an edge to make themselves saleable be it who they are or what they produce . Its all well and good for the critics – paid or otherwise to cherp up but a profesional painter needs to sellllllllllllllll or they aint gonna eat . As long as Marla keeps painting with Mark then at some point she will outgrow him and rise as the star herself . Today millions of poeple play with art . We only hear about the good ones ????? because they make it and if the only way to make it is to run a scheme then well done to them for even being able to have created it because that in itself is art
    As a final note I’ll add the thoughts of the man the world has come to think of as the greatest artist of alltime and artist he most definately was producing paintings sculpture pottery and on for all of his 80 odd years
    In art the mass of people no longer seek consolation and exultation, but those who are refined,rich,leisured,who are the distillers of quintessences, seek what is new, strange,original,scandalouse. I myself since Cubism and even before, have satisfied these masters and critics with all the changing oddities that have passed through my head;and the less they understood me the more they admired me . By amusing myself with all these new games ,with all these new puzzels ,rebuses and arabesques, I became famous,and that very quickly.And fame for a painter means sales ,gains, fortune,riches. so today ,as you know, I am a celebrated and rich.
    But when I am alone with myself, I have not the courage to think of myself as an artist in the great and ancient sense of the term. Giotto,Titian,Rembrant and Goya were great painters .I am only a public entertainer who has understood his times and has exhausted as best he could the imbecility,the vanity,the cupidity of his contemporaries. Mine is a bitter confession, more painful than it may appear. But it has the merit of being sincere
    He even wrote beautifully . So if thats the feelings of the greatest artist of all time then all I can say is keep doing what your doing Mark . worst way your creating another creative person who if she ever feels like becoming a professional painter of any sort will have many many hours of frustrating life where she will be constantly asking what to paint so just keep pushing her till she pushes u back . Atleast if she does ever get to the point u obviously want her to get to Mark shes gonna have the financial ability to do so something many a profesional painter today would wish they had so the rent and gas bill dont end up digesting all thier creative energy before a brush has even hit the canvas .

  14. Chad says:

    I have just finished watching the documentary “My kid could paint that” And Ive decided to follow up the film by reading some of these posts. I also think many of these posts are way too judgemental. For the person who stated Children are not capable at this age of abstract thought or abstract reasoning and that is what it takes to make purposeful abstract art. Wrong, dead wrong you self absorbed and self proclaimed expert. Children are very much capable of abstract thought and maybe even moreso than adults who’s lives and thoughts have been tainted and compromised by the stresses and pressures of everyday adult life. Children’s minds in most cases have not been messed with like an adults who has had the weight of the world crush their spirit. The childs mind is left to dream and create and not overthink the process of anything. I also believe a child can exhibit many different visual styles in painting or creating of any sort. Probably depends on the day and the mood that hangs in the air. Lets not forget that this whole story began because a little girl created some very interesting and well liked paintings. Once the media circus starts happening of course its gonna alter the mood and change the art. People just dont seem to be happy unless they’re casting stones. Let it be what it is people.

  15. Chad says:

    Furthermore, Lets suppose for arguments sake dad did in fact give Marla some guidance on some or all of the paintings. If you had an original Keith Herring on your wall and you now find out that on that particular piece Mr Herring had asked the opinion of a friend on what direction to take the painting because perhaps he was stuck. Would it be any less of a work of art? Would you be less happy with it? Much of this is being overthought. And if dad has had somthing to do with the direction of the paintings my thoughts are that even though he has said he hasnt , its quite possibly because he has been put into an interrigation situation and felt in the moment its what he needed to say.

    • Bente Rasmussen says:

      I just don’t like the feeling of being lied to. And my feeling is that Marla’s father isn’t telling the truth about how involved he’s been in the painting process. I do like several of the paintings very much, so in my opinion, someone in the household is talented. Why couldn’t the father just have tried showing them as his own, saying how he and his daughter likes painting together, and he was inspired by her… I would have believed that. :(

  16. Skye says:

    I am so curious of what you all think of the new child prodigy of art: Aelita Andre. In watching her videos it seems that she may in fact be the real thing unlike poor Marla. Take a look… would love to hear your comments on this one. :)

    http://shine.yahoo.com/event/momentsofmotherhood/4-year-old-aelita-andre-gets-her-own-ny-art-show-sells-paintings-for-27k-2494801/

  17. Susie says:

    How can people on the one hand say that the parents are exploiding their child, an on the other saying that the child did’nt paint the paintings?

    And if the father more than helped, and father and child that way created the paintings toghether, and having fun, how can that make the paintings worthless in the eyes of the so called art critics and people that normaly buys art.

    Is’nt the main thing in this hole affair, that this is beautyfull abstract paintings.

    Beautyfull and bold in colour, playfull in form, and with some likeness to the greatest painters of all time. We pay to be intertained, does it realy matter who painted them?

    The way this hole story have played out, only further puts the spotlights on the hypocritical way of judging if something is art.

  18. Susie says:

    If something is judged to be art, it still must be that, nomatter who created it. And therefore still worth the same.

  19. Rick says:

    Does anyone remember Balloon Boy ? Artists Girl ?

  20. MMorrissey says:

    There seems to be a lot of angry, arrogant people posting here. Elizabeth Cohen (the reporter) sums it up when she comments on how the documentary (and the buzz around little Marla) is really about adults.
    So many people are stirred-up about the authenticity of her work and what price collectors are paying for her canvases. The value of art and what someone will pay for a piece are not always the same thing…
    Just leave the little girl alone and let her paint, with or without a “coach”.
    And let the art collectors with fat wallets pay what they want for a piece of Marla’s innocence. It won’t last forever…
    Marla’s art will survive us all anyway!

  21. gazoo says:

    From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t appear she did the paintings attributed to her. Do I care? Only is so far as how this debacle effects this child emotionally. If we assume the father is actually doing the paintings and encouraging the daughter to take credit for them, that sets the child up as a liar and a fraud, and unfortunately, there are emotional repercussions she will suffer as a result. Children,even when telling a fantasy story of their own device, want to be believed. They don’t want to be challenged. Many children may begin to believe their own tall tales, and frankly, that’s all right. They are children, and their brains will sort out the truth from the half-truths eventually. But in this case, this is a fallacy based on someone else’s motives. Now, Marla is likely reprimanded if she doesn’t stick to the real story, no matter how much she may protest to her parents that she didn’t do the paintings, she knows she’ll be disciplined in some matter if she goes public.
    That kind of ‘secret’ goes against a child’s nature. On the one hand she wants to be truthful, on the other hand she doesn’t want to disappoint or upset her parents, and if we have another hand, she doesn’t want to disappoint all the people who shower her with positive attention.
    The test to gauge her truthfulness at that young age (4 or 5) would have been to ask sternly, ‘did you paint this on MY canvas?”. I don’t know a 4 or 5 year old who would admit to something they didn’t do, if they believe they’re in trouble. As a matter of fact, you’re likely to get ‘daddy did that, really, he did’, and perhaps just as likely a little girl going into complete melt-down over the charade.
    I do like some of the work, so whomever is responsible should continue, but it’s not Marla, and they shouldn’t continue to exploit her innocence.

  22. Mark says:

    I can relate to this story from my own experience. I was a member/organizer of an artist group that hosted a juried art exhibit. The exhibit included 2 divisions – adults and students. With my encouragement, my daughter entered a piece she did on her own. She won first place of the student division. The hitch is that most of the students were high school/college level and she was in the 4th grade. The jury didn’t know ages when they judged.

    Since I was an organizer and also an artist, skeptics jumped to the conclusion it was fixed that she would win. She had never entered anything like that before. I kept all the critical comments from her so that she would have positive memories of that experience.

    The point is that a situation like this will be attacked by skeptics because a child is under a parent’s influence – not out on their own making their own decisions.

    I saw the documentary. Only the Olmstead’s know the real story so who knows what to believe? I have empathy for Marla’s parents and for Marla having to deal with this history no matter what she decides to do.

  23. HatePolluck says:

    I don’t like abstract. But to say people were ripped off, the answer is no.
    They like the ugly stuff and paid for it. That’s it.

  24. HatePolluck says:

    Oh, and Marla does say in the movie, Zane paints, he painted the green one, I didn’t touch it. And her dad was ignoring her when she said it.

    Still, I would never pay for abstract.

  25. HatePolluck says:

    Oh and one last thing. They forced her to paint. Do you want to paint?
    I’ll lay out the things for you. You don’t have to but it will be there waiting ofr your.

    • Chr15to says:

      In what way is leaving paints out for one’s child “forcing” them to paint?

      • Iris.Winters says:

        I agree with Chr15to, just because they leave the paint out for her it doesn’t mean that their forcing her to paint, but i was writing a paper on Marla being a fraud for my english class and after i saw the movie i really doubt that Marla is the sole painter. Sure, i think she painted them, but i don’t think she did them on her own. Like they said during 60 Minutes, i think that her dad polishes her paintings for her and coaches her. I know she isn’t a prodigy, because prodigies do things on their own, but being coached means otherwise. Though all great artists (Ones that weren’t child prodigies) had teachers and had people who helped them paint and who showed how to paint, so there really is nothing wrong with her father helping her. Though, what i find terrible, is that he isn’t admitting it, if i was a collector, i would still buy the paintings even if Marla was helped a little, because that doesn’t change the fact that she did paint them. I just think that her dad should just admit it.

        ~Seek truth :)

  26. G. Golden says:

    It is clear that the documentary director was sympathetic to the family and wanted to capture Marla creating a masterpiece on film to counter the 60 Minutes claim. You can almost feel his stomach knott-up as he films her painting outdoors; a simplistic painting including the sun created by an average 4 year old; as the camera zooms in on the painting, both he and the audience know that it is over. I feel sorry for the mother, she appears to honestly believe that Marla created the paintings and cries as she offers to take a lie detector test, something that Marla’s father who is sitting beside her does not offer. I can hardly wait to see the Hollywood movie.

  27. George Harris says:

    I agree entirely with the top article here. Marla’s two on camera paintings are “blobby” and “preschool-y.”

    All fat strokes of paint. No patterns. No underlying symmetry. Your mind has to work harder when looking at them. They aren’t easy on the eyes. A woman in the documentary actually says this very thing (right before she buys Marla’s preschool-y “OCEAN” painting.)

    These things are easy to see. They are quite obvious. Marla’s two on-camera paintings have a grimy, preschool look to them. So different from the tight organization and intricate brushstrokes of her father’s paintings.

    Marla’s father often paints with something called “hatching:” very thin lines of paint placed side by side. Like a bunch of tiny knives. Many of the father’s paintings are covered with these delicate, very precise line strokes. They give his paintings a high degree of order, like a multicolored swarm of tiny minnows, swirling round and round on his canvases.

    This effect is entirely lacking in Marla’s two camera-caught works.

    Marla’s are all lumpy. All fat lines of paint and ugly blobs of color. Florid, pasty blobs of color, too. Like the blotchings of a toddler set loose with finger-paints.

    If these were the only kind of paintings that were shown to people, Marla would never have become famous at all.

    I only care because I don’t like being lied to. By anyone.

  28. zari says:

    they are nice , but maybe $ 40 each is a good price. she likes painting , many kids do not , so maybe in the future she can make some thing valuable , but not these mixture of colours!

  29. Jay says:

    I just watched that documentary. I think its obvious that Marla didn’t paint those more polished looking paintings by herself. There is an undeniable difference between the paintings she did on camera and the other ones displayed in the art galleries. I think people missed the point when commenting about the paintings. Buyers do have the right to be upset if Marla didn’t paint by herself. They wanted something amazing and were willing to pay for it, they have the right to decide what makes those paintings amazing…in this case its because of the artists age. They wouldn’t want to buy those paintings if they were done by you or me. So people are upset because they feel ripped off. What’s art or not is a controversial topic and a lot seems to hinge on what was in the artist’s mind not just the visual appeal. Herein lies the problem: people wanted to believe Marla to be special and wanted to own a little piece of her out of this world interpretation of this world. When there was doubt about her being special, that’s when everyone felt ripped off. This was never about a little girl that paints pretty pictures… No on would pay thousands for that because there are thousands of kids that can do it. I think Marla was exploited and at times it was painful to watch. I don’t think her father is the demon everyone makes him out to be. I think it started off with good intentions and then snowballed. I would love to know what happened to her now. If she was a child genius at 4, it’ll certainly show now when she is 12.

  30. CH says:

    I’ve seen the documentary and don’t believe it warrants all this negative critism. Most parents would nurture any sign of talent in their kids, some more than others. So what if her dad influenced some of her “work”. She was FOUR years old. FOUR!

    Competant adults asked Marla for an interview to elablorate on her “work”… her FOUR year old opinion on what she envisioned when painting. Really?

    I hardly think Mark and Laura calculated all of this happening. They put up a painting in a coffee shop to show off what their 3 year old “created” like any proud parent would. Did they put it up with the intention of conning the world? I seriously doubt it.

    I think its pathetic how people have attacked this family for believing their their child showed promise and talent. The public and media turned this into something that should never have been and then, turned on a family lost in it all.

    Society is a cruel animal.

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