Marla Olmstead

Perhaps you recall that artistic toddler, Marla Olmstead, who, as a four-year-old, sold her paintings for big bucks. Born in 2000, could she be washed up at age nine? No! She's still painting.

Here's her site.

     Posted By: Paul - Wed Jun 10, 2009
     Category: Art | Family | Children | Parents | Human Marvels

No kidding - seriously you should check out the documentary. How anyone still supports "her" work is beyond me. THings like this burn me up especially hard - I was a "child prodigy" with art and I worked my ASS off to get good. Then you get these kids who pop up every few years (pretty much all frauds) and get snatched up by some enterprising gallery owners looking for a couple hundred thousand dollars of exploitation money. Then the news hits that it's a scam, the art is deemed worthless and the cycle is ready to begin again! Fun times in the art world!
Posted by numb in Philadelphia on 06/11/09 at 01:16 PM
There little doubt that Marla’s paintings are fakes. They were likely painted by her father. Or, as Ellen Winner said on Sixty Minutes, perhaps Marla painted SOME of them and her father added some details.

I have been researching gifted children for years. And gifted children are very different from Marla. They’re focused. They’re filled with intensely directed energy. And they know exactly how to go about shaping their work. They’re bright and aware. Artistic prodigies reason out PRECISELY how they want their art to look. And they’re often willing and able to talk about it. They know exactly what they’re doing.

None of these qualities apply to Marla at all. She seems remarkably slow and dull (by comparison, that is). Not a prodigy at all. There is absolutely nothing in her manner or aspect that suggests unusual intelligence or ability. And she tries to avoid talking about her paintings whenever she is asked. They just don’t seem to interest her. This is NOT prodigy behavior. Actual prodigies are VERY interested and focused on what they do. They wouldn’t bother with it otherwise.

The paintings that Marla completed on camera are SHOCKINGLY different from her others. Her camera-recorded paintings are blobby and preschool-y. Grimy. All dull colors smudged together like trash.

See the top painting here:

My Kid Could Paint That:

Her other paintings, however, show a high degree of organization. Elegant swirls and carefully separated colors. Tints that are blended so that the eye has trouble settling on any one place. This is something that Van Gogh also used in his paintings. A lot of color-focused artists do this.

Marla’s other paintings also show evidence of color theory. A red is placed next to a yellow. Or an orange is placed next to a blue. The resulting juxtaposition makes both colors stand out far stronger than when alone.

For example, see here:

Marla’s Paintings:

And also here:

Color Theory:

Such painting requires training and knowledge of some very specific artistic methods. Exactly the kind of training that Marla’s Dad might have. I can’t see any way a child like Marla might just “evolve” these techniques on her own. They are too specific and abstract. Too cerebral. Even other prodigies NEVER paint with this level of abstract conceptualism.

Also, many of “Marla’s” other paintings tend to have a highly-organized sixty/forty proportioning favored by advanced artists (otherwise known as the Golden Ratio). A large central section of color (sixty percent) fills most of her paintings. A slightly smaller area of some other color or shape fills the rest of them (forty percent).

See the two top paintings here:

Marla Olmstead:

This kind of proportioning is traditionally thought to make paintings more pleasing to the eye. The “Golden Ratio” is a very specific artistic method indeed. I don’t see any way a child would know it by him/herself. See here:

Math and Art of the Face: From Da Vinci to Picasso:

So in summary, there are some very specific reasons why Marla Olmstead is a fraud: color theory, the Golden Ratio, and the subtle blending of color shades so that the eye has a hard time settling on them. Not qualities that naturally appear in the paintings of prodigies at all. Someone has to teach them. And this generally takes many years.

As for the Marla’s parents…

They talk too much. They’re always talking. Always trying to justify themselves. Always trying to give just enough details to make their story believable.

I once heard an ex-cop who specialized in interrogating criminal suspects talk about behavior like this. Usually, if a person is not guilty of something, and you ask them if they are, they’ll just say “No.”

Simple as that.

But if a person IS guilty of something, and you ask them if they are, they often lie, saying things like, “Oh, how could you ever think me capable of that? I am so offended. How dare you accuse me of something like this? I’m a fine, upstanding citizen in this community. Everybody knows it. Ask anyone you like. People here have known me for years, and nobody would ever say I could do something like this, because of this and that, and blah, blah, blah blah…” And on and on forever.

Guilty people talk forever. They never just say “No, I didn’t do it.” Exactly like Marla’s parents. There’s just a little too much detail in their extravagant defense of themselves. Methinks the lady doth protest too much, indeed. And it goes on and on throughout the entire documentary.

Not good.
Posted by joseph kemp on 03/20/12 at 08:51 PM
If you ever wonder why a child fails to succeed at something 'respectable' well beyond their childhood it is your cynical comments about the thing they do that is their talent.

You have never found yourself reaching out for a box of Lego in a toy store. Never grabbed the trowel and planted a flower in a pot and struggled to keep it alive through the year and wonder why it only flourishes when you ignore it.

This is a place for things to be beyond rational explanation, let's not go on a witch hunt.
Posted by mini_nat on 03/20/12 at 09:42 PM
I think the above reviewer, Joseph Kemp, has a point. 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.
Posted by George Harris on 04/23/12 at 10:21 PM
I also was a child prodigy and I too worked my ass off . I think this whole fiasco around Marla ,who I do believe did these paintings , merely exposes the 'art world' as the corrupt corporate entity that it has become. The actual intrinsic worth of a work art ,whether done by a five year old , or a fifty year old is lost to the vultures and parasites who macarade as artlovers or art experts. If a painting is good ,its good...regardless of who did it or how old they are. All young children ,given the materials and an environment conducive to creativity will paint abstract expressionit "masterpieces' if this is what they love to do .They have no skills to do anything else. Time will tell , whether a prodigy is th ereal thing... their inevitable evolution as as artist will will speak for itself. Picasso himself said that more than anything he aspired to paint like a small child. To evolve to that purest state of pure joy and freedom is ,I think what most artists ultimately aspire to regardless of medium or method...this is what its all about. I hope she doesnt lose the love or the faith... does whatever she damn well pleases.
Posted by bev krupp on 09/06/13 at 02:35 PM
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