East Tennessee teen gets painting on Christmas card

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Knoxville (WVLT) -- It's that time when we're all starting to get holiday greetings in the mail, but it's not often that you see your art work featured on one of those cards!

That happens to be the case for one East Tennessee teen that we talked to more than a year ago.

You may remember Derrick Freeman, the extremely talented artist with autism, whose artwork was featured with several other artists, as part of "Art for All" classes at East Tennessee Technology Access Center.

We've all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but that is an understatement for Freeman, who is only 17 years old.

The Fulton High School student practices his craft daily, diligently drawing every line just right.

"He would draw all day, really all day, he would,” said Angela Hunter, Derrick’s mother.

The painting is a way for him to express his emotions.

“His stuff is how he feels inside, his art represents him totally," Hunter said.

When Derrick stopped talking at the age of two, art was his only language.

"I've been saving picture after picture," said Hunter.

Many creations late, the collection numbers more than 1,000.

The images have become more than his voice, they've become a business.

"He has his own business account and checking account,” she said. “It's for further education and art"

While Angela oversees it all, even the business name, "Eyes of Faith", is all about Derrick.

"When Derrick stopped talking at age 2 he would draw pictures, but it's like his signature.” She said. “You would see eyes in the sky at the top of his art and that is how I came up with Eyes of Faith"

His splashes of the season grabbed the attention of one of his first customers, Breakthrough Corporation, which is a not for profit organization that provides services for autistic adults in our area.

"We picked a blue Christmas picture he does, but there was quite a bit of discussion of which one to use,” said Tom Beeson.

As each wish for a happy holiday circulates, it's their hope that Derrick’s ability will also help raise autism awareness.

"It's good for people to understand what people with autism can do,” Tom said.

Derrick’s mom is in the final stages of publishing a book about autism featuring her son’s art.

If you would like to purchase Christmas cards or other pieces of art in Derrick's collection, it's available online and at various locations in Knoxville.

For a spotlight on his art, you can click on the link below.

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