Ian's world
By Yannick Peterhans

Painter Ian Smith works on his first mural on Fifth and Main Streets in Paris. Ian is autistic and uses art to understand the world around him.

His whole life, Ian Smith has wanted to understand the world around him.
Ian was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old. While in school he developed a passion for painting, and has won numerous awards for his work. He describes his art as a bridge between his mind and the world around him.

A 100-foot-long mural on 5th and Main Street in downtown Paris is Ian’s latest work. The city tapped him to paint the mural representing the small town’s history, hospitality and horses. Ian began work in early October and spent the better part of the month sketching, outlining and painting two galloping horses, their red and turquoise manes blowing in the wind. “Hallelujah!” he says as he finishes the tail of the second horse.

The Smiths' 55-acre farm has oak trees and a small creek tucked between the hilly pastures. Every morning, Ian goes to feed Buddy and Boo and fills their trough with water. Buddy is a steer and Boo is a springing heifer days away from becoming a mom. They are never far from each other as they graze in the pasture and rest in the shadows of the brush and the trees.
Ian’s dog Rye, affectingly called Rye-Rye, always joins Ian as he makes his way across the farm on the family’s UTV, watering the plants, picking the pumpkins or planting a new crab apple tree with his mom, Pam.

Halloween has long been Ian’s favorite holiday. It coincides with his birthday five days earlier and ushers in a time for hanging ghosts from trees and setting up a table-sized spider web in the family living room. In the same room there's a self-portrait Ian drew. In the drawing, he stands still in a green shirt and blue pants, puzzle pieces floating from his head while a busy monochromatic crowd flows around him.

“I know what it feels like to have a troublesome mind,” Ian says, explaining that because of his learning disability he struggles with his auditory processing and sometimes has a hard time understanding what people are saying to him.

The mural is the largest painting he has ever done. He was proud of his finished work and being able to beautify the city.

Ian looks forward to continuing his work as a painter. He isn’t worried about the future, about getting a girlfriend or what will happen to the farm once his parents die. He would rather focus on the present and what he can control. He believes his hands are a gift from God, and plans to use them as long as he can for the betterment of his community.

Ian and his parents Eric and Pam put the outline of the second horse on the wall where he is painting a mural.

Ian paints the tail of one of the two horses on his mural in downtown Paris. The mural represents the town's history, hospitality and horses.

Ian cleans the flies of off Boo, a springing heifer, at his family farm outside of Paris.

Ian carries animal feed out of the barn as his dog Rye follows in tow. Ian will give the feed to the farm's two cows, Boo and Babe.

Eric and Pam prepare for their son Ian's 34th birthday dinner as Ian waters the plants in the garden.

In preparation for Halloween, Ian uses a ladder to hang up a ghost decoration on his family farm. Halloween falls five days after Ian's birthday, and is his favorite holiday.

Ian speaks to his sister on the phone as his parents Pam and Eric celebrate Ian's 34th birthday.

Ian works on the mural at 5th and Main.

Ian celebrates with his mom Pam after finishing the second of two horses on his mural.

Ian Smith looks at his work after finishing the second of two horses of his mural that celebrates the history, hospitality and horses of Paris.