Ever since he was five years, it seemed like Andres Valencia was born to be an artist. Back then, he would simply draw on a pad with pencils, crayons and markers on the living room floor. But there was a flamboyant flair that definitely stood out.

“I used to notice when he started painting figures that really caught my attention,” recalls the boy’s mom, Elsa. “I asked why they were so different and sophisticated,”

“I don’t know,” answered Andres. ” It just comes to me.”

While being a child prodigy is sort of a loose term, it clearly fits in the case of Andres Valencia. The youngster’s parents, Elsa and Lupe, have an appreciation for art, but otherwise have just given their son the freedom to do his own thing. At the age of 10, Andres was already selling his art all over the world at high profile events like Art Miami, and auctions from SoHo to Madrid and even Hong Kong. His paintings usually sell from between $159,000 to $230, 000. That’s a far cry from the water color pieces he used to sell to relatives for $20 per piece. And now at 12, Andres has celebrity clients like Brooke Shields, Diane Keaton, Jon Bon Jovi and even a member of the Korean pop boy band BTS.

Valencia’s work is often compared to historic artists like Pablo Picasso because of his cubism style, which uses abstract figures and shapes which are achieved by combining different views of a subject in the same picture. He often begins with sketches and then guided by a color wheel, uses a mix of oil stick plus oil and acrylic paint to transfer his idea onto canvas. Andres usually starts his figures with the nose and then will gradually work toward one of the eyes, which he says is just “my style.” Sometimes, a step stool or even a ladder is needed as an aid in his basement studio, and parental assistance is usually nearby.

“They help me with the cans of paint, because they’re sometimes hard to open,” smiles Andres. “And they also help me clean my brushes.”

Valencia is an interesting young man, carefree like most 12 year old kids, albeit disciplined and absorbed in his self taught passion. He paints every day, sometimes for an hour but often longer. While working on a piece, Andres often listens to music from the Beatles, Prince or even Chuck Berry, depending on his mood. He watches film and techniques, sometimes waking up after bedtime with an idea. Additionally, he’s a student of history and will occasionally use world events to express his type of art.

“One time I walked into his room when he was 10,” recalls Elsa, his mom. “Andres was watching the news about the war in Ukraine, and drawing a small sketch with a marker about the invasion. So I asked him if he wanted to paint it on a larger canvas.”

“Do you think Putin will do something to me?” he asked.

“Why would he do that,” responded Elsa.

“Because when Picasso painted Guernica, Franco was not happy about it and wanted to hurt Picasso,” answered Andres.

His final product featured a wide eye weeping onto a Ukrainian flag with a broken heart and bullet casings. It is a brilliant blend of distressed and distorted Cubist figures in bold colors. Another painting dubbed The Commander, is also an excellent piece with a similar theme.

“All wars are bad,” notes Andres in a serious tone. “I think art tells stories, and I’m telling the story of the Ukrainian people and what Russia is doing to them.”

Most of the work Andres does however, is of a happier variety, and are usually singular subjects like clowns, a mariachi singer, a matador or a maybe an elegant old lady, all in extreme detail based on his imagination. Plus, he usually gives each painting a name. While he doesn’t have a lot of spare time, Andres also plays the guitar and piano, and has even written a book, titled Painting Without Rules.

At the Art Miami show, 11 of Valencia’s paintings sold for a staggering $1.3 million, and his net worth to date is estimated at more than $5 million. That said, Andres is a humble, caring Mexican-American child who has donated a considerable amount of his earnings to charities like UNICEF. Box of Hope, and the Klitschko Foundation in Ukraine. Quiet with a dry sense of humor, he lives in San Diego, fluent in Spanish, and is pretty much a normal sixth grader. That’s the way his parents want it.

“My son is an artist, but a kid first,” says Elsa.

Asked if he likes his tag of Little Picasso, Valencia ponders the question for a moment.

“Yeah, but I want to be known for my own work,” he replies. “I don’t want to be in his shadow.”

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Esteban "Steve" Randel is a veteran journalist specializing in current events, sports, politics and Hispanic cuisine. He is the former publisher of "The Latin Athlete" and a longtime activist in the SoCal Hispanic community.

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