Autism exists on such a large spectrum that we often have trouble understanding and identifying it. In most cases, doctors will classify autism as a neurobehavioral condition that compromises social interactions, behavioural norms and language learning. 

Because of the stigma surrounding the disorder, we may often assume individuals who live with autism cannot succeed independently. Perhaps we assume that for many people, the obstacles brought fourth by autism are too difficult to overcome. Then someone like Casey ďRemrovĒ Vormer comes along.

Born in the Netherlands, Vormer, who works under the name, ďRemrovĒ, has been making a splash in the Montreal art scene. About eight years ago, Remrov began producing photorealistic portraits using only colour pencils. He began showing these works at exhibits and has helped support himself with the sales. When glancing through an art gallery, one of his drawings catches your attention immediately. The realism in his work is incredible. Take his portrait of a lion for example. The texture of the fur as well as the lifelike expression on the creatureís face makes viewers feel as if they are looking at a photograph.

Most people would assume the artist has spent years of rigorous training at a fine arts academy, but Remrov is completely self-taught.  He says his method is a little unconventional. ďWhen Iím working on a drawing, I donít try to draw fur or whiskers. For example, I draw the details I see, one by one,Ē he explains. The artist attributes his workís realistic elements to his close attention to detail. ďI see my whole world in detail because of autism. It helps me see all the small things in a picture. But I am also a perfectionist, so Iím often not satisfied with my own work,Ē Remrov says.

ďI was drawing as soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil. I would draw everything. Originally it was road maps when I was very little. I loved the patterns and colours,Ē Remrov explains. Just about any piece in a Remrov exhibit is magnificent but it is his portraits of animals that especially stand out. It is no coincidence that animals are in fact his favourite thing to draw. He says his initial inspiration for these photorealistic pieces came from fellow artist, Richard Symonds. Like Remrov, Symonds is an animal lover.

Remrov isnít alone. There are many other talented and successful people who are also on the autism spectrum. People like Susan Boyle, comedian Dan Aykroyd and Colorado State University Professor, Temple Grandin, just to name a few. Autism representation in the media is also on the rise with shows like ABCís The Good Doctor. But almost all of these examples show us the high functioning end of the spectrum. And while in many cases, autism can act like a superpower, there are often many struggles that come with it. Despite his incredible artistic talents, Remrov still struggles with social interactions. ďSocial situations are still a challenge. Being autistic affects that part of my life quite a lot. Making friends has always been difficult because whatís natural for others is not automatic for autistic people. People can be very unpredictable which makes socializing confusing. For us, non-verbal communication and facial expressions are especially hard to understand,Ē Remrov explains.

Remrov also says there were some difficulties that came along with being diagnosed with autism as an adult. ďI was diagnosed fairly late. I was 21. I had always had difficulties with speech and language. I also had trouble making friends and socializing. My family and I always wondered what was going on. It [being diagnosed] just felt like a lot of puzzle pieces fell into place and it explained a lot of the struggles I had growing up.Ē

April 2, 2019 is World Autism Awareness Day. It is a day designed to encourage conversation about people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Remrov agrees this day should be recognized and celebrated. ďPeople should acknowledge our difficulties but understand that we also have many strengths. Many people donít realize that Ďneurotypicalsí and autistic people make great teams.Ē

Despite all the challenges he faces, Remrov continues to grow as a person and thrive as an artist. He does not feel like a victim. He has instead taken what others might deem to be a setback and has turned it into something beautiful.