Painter Akiane Kramarik on Her Art and Spiritual Journey
Mirroring her paintings and their subject matter, she radiates a sense of wonder at life and expresses the complexities of our existence and its mysteries. She has traveled the world over, connecting with and inspiring others through her paintings, with the ultimate purpose of spreading hope.
Despite their poverty, Kramarik’s family encouraged her to pursue her artistic gift after she began to draw at the age of 4. Her drawings were first done with whatever she could get her hands on pencils, crayons, or food on her dinner plate.
By the age of 8, Kramarik’s renderings had progressed to become shockingly realistic. Her paintings also started to reflect her inner consciousness and perceptions. She detailed and illustrated her visions, including those of some enigmatic and multidimensional worlds. She also depicted her vision of Jesus Christ in her painting “The Prince of Peace,” which became one of her most famous works. Kramarik had set a ritual to dutifully wake up at 2 a.m. and tiptoe down to her little studio to paint these visions.
At this point, her parents decided to share her paintings with their small community in Idaho. Soon after, Kramarik and her deep, solemn, and hopeful paintings were invited to “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which featured a series on gifted children. Kramarik instantly gained international recognition. Her family was able to escape poverty and share the gift of her visions and her message with the world.
Despite the complexities of the modern world, Kramarik, now 23, holds fast to the youthful wonder she possessed since her earliest days of painting. She also remains humble and focused.
In an email interview, Kramarik shares her insights, her paintings, and their meanings.
Tim Gebhart: You grew up in poverty in rural Idaho without a TV or other modern distractions. How do you think that influenced who you are?
Akiane Kramarik: Even though we lived in poverty, we were blessed with abundant happiness in our family. Laughing, talking, playing, improvising, and creating were our daily entertainment. I did not know what boredom or superficial entertainment was because every minute was [full of] meaningful and creative play; we made our own toys from cardboard boxes, sticks, stones, and clay. We made our own music, and we created our own school.
We were also entrusted with huge responsibilities as soon as we were able to walk (and we all walked quite early: 8 to 9 months). We cooked, did laundry, cleaned, took care of our sick dad, and walked with our mom, door to door, in two feet of snow selling food in different neighborhoods in order to make ends meet.
The poverty was my blank canvas upon which I could create more freely. And as I grew and matured, I never forgot the humble beginnings my family had to go through and never, ever took any day, any gift, or any comfort for granted.
Mr. Gebhart: You said in a YouTube video that the best teacher of painting you could have is yourself. Are we our own best teachers in our lives as well?
Ms. Kramarik: Being self-taught in art does not mean that I am my own best teacher. My best teacher is life and everyone who is consciously or unconsciously participating in it. Every single being, inanimate or animate, influences my life, and my responsibility is to creatively reciprocate such generosity, whether it is on canvas, in film, for the kitchen table, horse farm, or mayor’s office.
At the age of 6, during my early experimentation in art, I became curious of what other children were doing at my age. My mother and I came up with a brilliant idea: to invite children from many different towns to draw together.
I interpreted that experience as the foundation of my motivation and determination to share my art with many more people around the world. As a student of life, I was challenged every day to experiment and to explore the unknown territories and learn about art the hard way. I discovered every technique by observing humans, live animals, and natural tones of vast landscapes in [the] 30 countries I lived in or visited.
Real experiences, visions, and dreams were my starting point, but it was my duty to interpret those ideas, transform them, and then detail them. An artist gets to see everything first in the rough, just like a diamond.
Every day, I see ordinary things in this extraordinary world, and I see extraordinary things in this ordinary world. To be able to create a cinematic-like experience from a simple sound, object, color, emotion, or scenery takes patience and confidence. …
My mission to this day is … to use my art and writings to bring back hope to people who seek it.
My lifetime motto is also still the same: I don’t wait for inspiration, inspiration always waits for me.
Mr. Gebhart: In “Footsteps of Eternity,” you touch on different characteristics of a person’s life: that our existence is much more complicated than what we see on the surface, or what we are aware of. What were you trying to capture in this painting?
Ms. Kramarik: I painted “Footsteps of Eternity” at the age of 13. The painting depicts part of our spiritual journey—the journey of our soul [our higher self] that is able to be present in multiple places, all at the same time. …Respect and appreciation of our earthly life—plain, brief, confusing, painful, remarkable, or even cataclysmic—is vital for our spiritual well-being. Our experiences are waiting for us; we simply choose to live through the challenges and mistakes. If we don’t live through difficulties, we cannot see the solved puzzle at the end.
Our forgetfulness of our divine self and God’s presence and purpose for us is part of [life’s] mystery.
Mr. Gebhart: That “art is life outside of life” is an idea you shared with others in interviews in the past. Could you elaborate on that a bit more?
Ms. Kramarik: Art is life within life and life outside of life. It is a design of nature, a design of humanity, and a design of countless worlds. There is not a single element in nature or humanity without some artistic design and expression. We create our life with our minds and hearts. That is why art is inseparable from the most complex fabric of our thoughts and feelings. Inspiration and epiphanies are experienced when the mind and heart meet.
Mr. Gebhart: Is it our relationship with ourselves that takes the most work? Makes the most difference? How do you feel about yourself and your relationship with your paintings?
Ms. Kramarik: Our relationship with ourselves is our relationship with our universe. The more we are connected to [our] infinite possibilities and responsibilities …, the more completely we are able to appreciate our being here—our mission, our calling, our purpose.
Comprehending the significance of our living here forms a complete peace of mind that we could feel every day. It is the assurance of our oneness with everyone, the conviction that we are all part of that collective puzzle, part of one and the same spirit, part of the grand divinity, part of each and everyone we will meet today on a train, in a coffee shop, in a bookstore, at school, or in a neighborhood park
The art of life is loving and listening to one another. When we feel sad, all we need to do is to count our blessings, no matter how few we notice, so we can feel grateful for what we have been given. Sadness soon disappears and, in return, we get inspired to bless others. …
What we all share is “awareness.” We are in an invisible intertwined web. The more we move [toward awareness], the more we get to experience a wider and more complete range of relationships and creations.
I hope my art would be part of that web. When people get the chance to see other worlds, I hope they will trust their own sensitive compass to navigate through [to] true reality.
Mr. Gebhart: You live your life very deliberately in pursuing your artistic vision and following your own path in life. Is that where the learning and truly understanding yourself begins, not in conforming to others but in conforming to our own true selves?
Ms. Kramarik: We each have a different purpose. True understanding and learning could still be achieved by conforming to others, because, sooner or later, the maturity of seeing the cause and effect brings forth the most fragrant fruition of the truth. …
The blessing is not in fully knowing yourself or fully knowing the whole truth. The blessing is in the peace of not knowing, yet being true to the purpose that is given to us “from above.”
… Living every moment as if it was our first and last is a genuine life of gratitude, acceptance, and wisdom. …
And who fulfills such a way of living the best? Children.
Children’s simplicity, their eagerness to learn from their surroundings, being content with not knowing everything yet trusting the caretakers for guidance is the most advanced spiritual achievement within the parameters of all imperfect worlds.
Children seek for answers in the purest way: humility, peace, childlike enthusiasm, acceptance, and sincerity. … That’s why my frequent portrayal of children in my art is my wholehearted appreciation of this remarkable manifestation: childhood.
Childhood is a provisional treasure. We can never be children again if we are fully aware adults in our human lifespan, but we can be much happier adults if we can emulate childlike innocence, faith, hope, [and] lightheartedness.
“Between the Frames” depicts transformation between childhood and adulthood. Climbing from one frame of time into another, we acquire more wisdom and more compassion, yet we lose simplicity, innocence, and pure wonder [that] only childhood can provide.
Between frames is a symbol of our terrestrial existence where we are trying to escape the frames but end up being entangled inside larger and larger frames, until the frame we try to fit in is so large that we lose our sense of reality, …
“Between the Frames” is literally falling frames—[the] heroic, yet at times tragic effort to comprehend our human and divine destiny and our spirituality; our intense search for love, beauty, happiness, and wisdom; our epic journey that we never finish.
Tim Gebhart is an artist and teacher living in Portland, Oregon.