NEWPORT BEACH — It was one of those out-of-body experiences, a tale was more befitting the Sage Hill School gymnasium than a classroom.
On Friday, artist Akiane Kramarik, 16, told hundreds of Sage Hill students about what it was like to be a well-known painter who, at the age of 4, told national news networks that her art was the direct result of divine intervention.
Discovered as a child and first introduced to a national audience by Oprah Winfrey, Kramarik, who only uses Akiane professionally, has been painting since that moment.
The value of her art has been estimated in the millions of dollars, said father Mark Kramarik, 52, who sat in the front row of the gym during his daughter's speech, listening to her as intently as the crowd of Newport Coast high school students.
Akiane talked about how some people called her paintings the "work of the devil," especially after she would say her inspiration came directly from God. She said
that she doesn't subscribe to any sort of religion, and that she truly believes that "God is just love," and that her purpose in life is to show people through her paintings exactly what love is.
Love, like inspiration, is everywhere, she said, although she told the students that you have to be patient and wait for it in just about everything you aspire to do.
But if you wait long enough, it will happen for you, Akiane said.
And never underestimate the power of art, she said.
"Art is a hidden doorway that can change people's emotions," Akiane said.
Now residents of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, the father and daughter have taken to the road to recount the past and tell the story of how Akiane got to where she is. While most of it is a natural-born talent, it doesn't come without hard work — hundreds of hours of it.
She wakes up at 4 a.m. and paints five hours a day.
It was Akiane's mother who first noticed Akiane drew on a piece of paper and immediately recognized it as something to behold.
She took Akiane to an arts supply store and told her she could have anything she wanted.
Akiane's art moved away from doodling on the tables, chairs and walls, and onto finer pieces of paper and canvas.
One of her favorite artworks, she said, is "The First," which she finished last year and was on display inside the school gymnasium.
"Either 'The First Kiss' or 'The First Love,'" she said in explaining the name.
Her father, Mark Kramarik, said his daughter's paintings are not sold often because he doesn't think it's right. He said the originals are so unique and special that they have become like "adoptive children" and not just anybody can buy them.
"We only sell about one or two a year," said Kramarik.
He said when she turns 18, the family of five, which includes two younger sons, two older sons, Akiane and his wife, will rethink what to do with all the paintings.
"You can buy replicas," he said, adding that "The First" sells for $3,100.
"But in the end we'd like open a museum for Akiane," he said. "We want her to have her own museum."
Sanna Taskinen, 16, a junior at Sage Hill, said she was impressed by the 45-minute presentation.
"It was amazing," she said. "I'm 16 years old, so I'm her age. I'm into music. I liked what she said about just waiting and keep on going for what you want. You have to have the patience and put in the time."
Taskinen said she plays the piano and the guitar, but what she really wants to perfect, in the same vein as Akiane, is her singing.