A koala peers at its onlooker from a secluded treelimb with an expression indicating that he may have been up to something mischievous; two wolves in the woods stand close - perhaps they're brothers - but look away from one another, deep in thought; a mother bear and her two cubs snuggle, the affection radiating off the page.
These are just a few of the artworks from the mind of Austin Orelli.
Orelli, 19, of Williamsport, has autism ... but really, he's like many other artists, in that artists historically have always seen the world in a different light.
And Orelli is passionate about animals, so he paints and draws them. He calls himself an Animal Explorer.
After his first painting sold - a painting of two tigers made in 2007 - at an auction for $2,200, his family realized that perhaps something even more grand could come of his natural talent. They already had been donating prints to various local charities.
"I don't think there's any specific reason; he just loves animals and loves to research them. He has 1,000 research books at home - field guides, stuff like that," his half-sister, Tiffany Fuller said.
Fuller and Jane Orelli, Austin's mother, never expected that his art would take him this far; he now has art exhibitions and conferences scheduled and booked all through the summer. They regularly sell prints through their art business, formerly The Art of Autism, now The Wildlife of Autism LLC.
A common uncommanility
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 1 in 68 children in America have autism. And it's not uncommon for an autistic individual to excel in a particular area, especially the arts. According to autismspeaks.org, about 40 percent of autistic individuals have average to above average intellectual capabilities.
While Orelli excels at painting, drawing and coloring, his struggle lies in his verbal communication. He often repeats things and speaks in a way that, for those not used to it, can be difficult to decipher at first listen. But according to his mother and sister, it's really only spontaneous conversation that he has trouble with - rehearsed speeches he can recite without issue.
Austin doesn't let communication impede the pursuit of his passion for animals and art, however; passion seems to be another common trait among autistic children. Jane and Fuller have met other autistic children along the way who also are determined to pursue their passions.
"There's a lot of talented autistic kids out there," Jane said. "We met a little boy once that could tell you everything about tractors and lawnmowers."
Building a life with The Wildlife of Autism
The tight-knit trio started the LLC, then called The Art of Autism, in 2011. However, they just recently changed the name to "The Wildlife of Autism" to help more narrowly focus their endeavor (there are other "Art of Autism" projects and organizations that show up in Google).
Jane and Fuller have chosen to dedicate their time to facilitating Orelli's artistic endeavors while also facilitating his ability to grow and live in this world as an independent adult. They call it helping him to "build a life." Their help in that is crucial, because while it would be ideal that all autistic children have a support system like Orelli's, that isn't always the case. Especially once they become adults.
"All the research (on autism) is on the young. Every conference we go to and everything," Jane said.
Fuller emphasized that life after high school still presents obstacles for many autistic individuals.
"Austin was lucky enough not to be in that situation (of not having people to support him after high school)," she said. "You don't want them sitting around doing nothing all day or just playing video games."
Aside from his art, he volunteers with Clyde Peeling's Reptiland, Petco and the Lycoming Animal Protection Society, places that often inspire his artwork.
Orelli graduated from high school in 2012, and like anyone else, he's building his resume.
He has been studying for the past few years at St. John's School of the Arts with Jason Paulhamus to continue to develop and refine his artistic skills.
Paulhamus calls Orelli's style "whimsical."
"(His drawings) always have ... cartoony eyes. He can do realistic textures and coloring but they still kind of have that childlike cartoon quality to them," Paulhamus said.
But not all of the animals in his drawings have smiles such as the aforementioned artwork featuring two wolves. His mother took notice of the wolves and their forlorn expressions.
"I said, 'What's wrong? He looks sad.' He said, 'Yeah, he's got issues. They're brothers.' I said, 'What are the issues?' He said, 'I don't know ... just issues,' " Jane recalled.
Jane and Fuller aren't certain whether or not the drawings reflect what Orelli is thinking or feeling at the time. And Orelli says he just does them "because I want to!"
A bright future
Many organizations and publications are taking notice of Orelli, his family and their business. He has been featured at several charity events, conferences and exhibitions, including in New York City and, more recently, Washington D.C.
He also has been featured in Dining Out magazine and other publications.
But it's important to keep in mind that the strides that Fuller, Jane and Orelli are taking aren't to gain fame and fortune - they are to spread awareness about autism while donating portions of their profits to various autism awareness organizations and causes. They believe that although much has been accomplished, more still needs to be done to help people understand autism, and especially how to help autistic people to build a life.
"Our main thing is to show that autism doesn't define an individual," Fuller said. "(Austin) has autism, but he's so many other things."
Additionally, the family has noticed through going to various autism conferences, Austin's success story has inspired hope in other parents and their autistic children.
"You gotta find what they love and then just keep building on it," Jane said.
At the moment, Orelli is working on illustrating a children's book. He created a character called Mr. Hottie, who is a character within the world of Sonic the Hedgehog.
Incidentally, "Mr. Hottie is a weinerdog with autism who's also a famous artist," Fuller chuckled.
Orelli just likes to see people smile. And he takes that literally at times.
"He always asks people to smile," Fuller said, as Orelli interjected, "Smile, it's a beautiful day!"
Fuller said he's been doing it for a while.
"As he gets older, I ask him why he wants everyone to smile, and he says, 'I just want everyone to be happy.' "