Lunch with Temple Grandin – eleven recommendations for artists

Temple with Joel Anderson

By Debra Muzikar, November 2013

Yesterday, I met my friend Jen in Carpinteria at 4:45 AM. We arranged to ride together to the Future Horizons Temple Grandin conference in Glendale. Future Horizons offered The Art of Autism space for an exhibit and I was excited Temple had agreed to go out to lunch with some of the young artists.

Jen is in my writing class and is a blogger about her journey with her son Finbar, on the spectrum. I was grateful to have company on the drive.

We arrive in Glendale by 6:15 AM avoiding Los Angeles rush-hour traffic. Jen helps me set up in the large space and soon artists arrived with their easels and displays.

Noah Schneider "Girl with Blue Hair"
Noah Schneider “Girl with Blue Hair”

Dani Bowman, who is outgoing and sparkly, is dressed in a professional looking black pair of pants and nice top. She sets up her TV screen which displays a portfolio of video-work. As usual, her display is impressive. Dani, a freshman in college, is excited about meeting her idol, Temple Grandin.

Before Temple arrives, I ask Dani to do her Temple Grandin impression which is quite humorous.

“Hello, my name is Temple Grandin. I’m diagnosed with autism. I’m not less. We can be amazing.”

Temple Grandin walks in at 11:00 AM and a small crowd gathers.

Dani shows Temple her website and videos.

“What’s your website name?” Temple asks.

Dani tells her “”

“Why do you have dashes in your domain name. You should never have dashes,” Temple says. (For those of you who are reading this has three dashes – ouch!)

Unfortunately, Dani couldn’t get her website to load fast enough for Temple due to a bad internet connection at the hotel.

“You must always have your portfolio preloaded on your device,” Temple says.

She looks at Dani’s videos on the screen.

“Those look really professional,” Temple says.

Dani’s website loads and Temple gives her feedback.

Temple looks at Dani's website
Temple looks at Dani’s website

“I want to go to your website and immediately see your professional portfolio,” Temple says.

Patrick, Dani’s uncle, tells me later that Dani’s website suffers from “additis.” I can relate because The Art of Autism website has the same problem.

Joel who is more reserved sits on the sidelines. He shyly approaches Temple and hands his new illustrated book, Courage at the Concert, to Temple. Temple is impressed.


“This looks very professional,” she says in her rather flat yet distinctive voice.

The Future Horizons event coordinator approaches and tells us that it is time for Temple to go to lunch.

Joel Anderson's art
Joel Anderson’s art

“I arranged for Temple to go to lunch with the artists,” I say.

“You should have arranged that with me, not Temple’s assistant,” the coordinator replies.

Uh-oh. She consulted with Temple and we were relieved Temple agrees to go to lunch with us.

At a large table downstairs, we arrange for the artists to sit around Temple so she can give them advice. Temple performs an impromptu consultation.

Noah Schneider shows her an animated film, “This is very professional. Is it on youtube?” she asks.

“No, it’s on Vimeo,” Noah replies. (You can see Noah’s films here.)

“You got to get it on youtube. I had a video on youtube about a pig dying that went viral. Over 2,500,000 hits,” she says.

“I go to many towns and see many artist’s portfolios, but what I see here today is very professional,” she continued.

Noah shares his portfolio with Dani
Noah shares his portfolio with Dani

Many of us have our cameras out ready to capture this moment in time. Sandy, Dani’s aunt, takes out her video camera.

“Okay, everyone, put away your cameras and recorders. I don’t want this recorded,” Temple says.

We order our lunch and Temple watches as the artists gave their order to the waitress. Later in her presentation she said “Autistic people should know how to order from a menu without help.”

Fortunately, Noah, Joel, and Dani ordered their food with no help.

Temple, who is animated, brutally honest and funny, goes on to give advice to the artists. The advice includes:

(1) Be professional. “I like what your wearing,” she tells Dani, “You look very professional.”

(2) Take anything to do with autism off your website. “You should be known for your business not for your autism,” she says. “If you want to have a separate autism advocacy website get a different domain name. Let your work speak for itself. My professional work always takes precedence over my autism work.” Later she emphasizes in her presentation, “The first ten years of my work no one knew I had autism. They just thought I was weird.”

(3) Have your portfolio pre-loaded on your Iphone or Ipad. “You have fifteen seconds! It must be ‘wow’. That’s all.”

(4) For artists, don’t rely on animation alone. “Have still art as well. Make reproductions and sell them.”

(5) Incorporate. “I learned a long time ago that I had to incorporate and become a chapter-S corporation.”

(6) Do funny animations about businesses and get them on youtube. “What does the sports equipment do at night at Sport’s Authority? Make a video of that. That would be funny and may get you busines.”

(7) Make professional looking business cards. “The cards must look professional, not on a cheap printer.”

(8) “You are in a crowded field with lots of competition. Build up your freelance material and get it on your website.” Temple was impressed that the artist Joel Anderson had a recent contract with Jet Blue. She later mentioned it in her presentation.

(9) Follow-up. “I always include a couple of articles from trade magazines and pictures in a plastic sleeve for potential clients.”

(10) Be careful with your domain name. “No dashes. and are porn sites. If you do something for a company it has to be PG.”

(11) “Try to get freelance work with local businesses. Sometimes you have to do things for free to build a portfolio.” Later in the conference she talked about holiday art cards for local businesses. In the past my son Kevin’s art has been used for greeting cards for several organizations and businesses.

Temple gives advice to Exceptional Minds students at Future Horizon conference
Temple gives advice to Exceptional Minds students at Future Horizon conference

Sandi Anderson asked about parental involvement and management of a child’s career. Temple said it’s necessary that parents are involved and help their children.

Temple with Joel
Temple with Joel

Sandy, Dani’s aunt, can’t resist asking Temple a couple of personal questions.

“Have you ever been in love?”

“No. I love my work,” Temple says.

“What do you do at night?” Sandy asks.

“I sleep,” Temple replies.

It is obvious Temple is more interested in giving out professional advice than personal information.

Kelly Green of the can’t resist taking a photograph.

Temple looks her in the eye and said “I said no photographs, Kelly.” Kelly told me later she was thrilled that Temple called her by name. Kelly was also pleased to know that Temple had painted signs in her younger days. (Kelly paints sign in windows as a career.)

“Could you believe her eye contact?” Kelly said. Kelly made lots of contacts at this conference for The Autism Chalk Art Festival in Covina April 12. Yudi Bennett of Exceptional Minds said that her students may come out and do some chalk art.

Later, I am pleased to see two artists from The Art of Autism book in Temple’s presentation – Grant Manier and Jessy Parks.

Temple talks about how important art was to her and how her mom made a big deal about a watercolor she painted as a child. “She put it in a frame with glass. Even I could understand the difference between a picture on the refrigerator and a framed painting.”

She also advises parents to use their child’s interest in their art. “If they are fascinated with trains and planes, draw pictures of where trains and planes go.”

As I sit next to Joel with his ever-present sketch-pad during Temple’s presentation, I notice Egyptian pyramids and pharoahs emerging. He must have completed over twenty little drawings while sitting there.

After Temple’s presentation, we are delighted that she returns to The Art of Autism display and offers to take more pictures.

Temple Grandin with Noah and Dani
Temple Grandin with Noah and Dani

Her last words to me are, “I want these kids to learn how to be professional and make a living.”

I ask Dani what she learned from Temple. “Add more still art and build my portfolio. If the internet is down have it pre-loaded.”

Noah says, “I need a stronger portfolio and need to learn how to run a business.”

Joel, who reminds me I forgot his birthday on October 10, said “Jet Blue was important.”

Artwork by Luis Epic Arts
Artwork by Luis Epic Arts
Temple with Group
Temple with Group
3 replies on “Lunch with Temple Grandin – eleven recommendations for artists”
  1. Temple is right! You all are absolutely amazing artists, very professional and have a lot of potential. This blog entry is very inspiring for many reasons. One of the best pieces of advice I also got from this was in Temple’s actions. She not only listened to everyone; but she also offered them her undivided attention, advice & modeled a fine example for all to follow. Another great tip was concerning how she doesn’t let her autism control her business and how important it is to sell yourself; not the autism. For a lady of her stature to sit and mingle over lunch and offer so much inspiration & guidance is commendable.

  2. says: Jen

    Great recap of Temple’s strong advice and role modelling and good for you for arranging the lunch with such a celebrity! I have so much great advice to parents spinning in my head from her speech. It occurred to me that the artists needed that one on one lunch…a lot may have been lost for them in listening to her speech in the big room with poor microphones, they needed “specific instructions” from her as we are so often reminded of.
    I can’t believe you are all in black in the photo – very “artsy” indeed. And I believe she described the hotel internet as “crap” LOL. Thanks for being my chauffer – really enjoyed hanging out, you do such great work Deb and the artists are all so very inspiring, their parents too!

  3. says: Lyn Young

    The art was incredible and exciting. I didn’t realize until later that this was the first exhibit of so many of the artists there, who were commendable in every way, particularly because they were nice enough to visit me, as I was tied down the entire day at the registration table. Your article on the luncheon was delightful, perceptive and, at times, funny, but Temple’s advice was typically serious and cogent. As she is the model of success for her talent, the students would be wise to follow her direction. As she says, she is a designer and animal scientist first and foremost. She also is a person who has autism. She’s not an “autistic designer,” so they would be wise to recognize that they are artists with true talent, first and foremost. It’s a lesson to be valued by an exceptional group of young artists.

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