Sketching a Detailed Picture of ASD

Through his meticulous artistry, Remrov's drawings highlight the exceptional potential of individuals with autism, offering a window into the depth of perception and skill that autism can encompass.

CASEY REMROV

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Almost as soon as he was old enough to hold a pencil, Casey Vormer, who goes by the name Remrov, began to teach himself to draw. Sitting alone in his room at his family’s home in the Netherlands, he sketched out rudimentary road maps and little cartoon figures. When he wasn’t working on his art, he devoured books on astronomy, medical science, neurology, and quantum physics.

Despite his many other interests, his fascination for art persisted. Over the years, and without any formal training, Casey began turning out increasingly intricate portraits of buildings, animals, and other objects. He works in graphite charcoal or colored pencil with such a high degree of complexity that his pieces have been mistaken for paintings or photography.

Dealing with misconceptions about autism

“I went through a whole process to find out what works best for me,” says Casey from his home studio in Montreal. He’s on a break from working on a private commission of a three-by-six-foot mountain lion. “I really don’t like painting. It’s expensive. It’s messy. But when you work with pencils, when you’re done, you put them to the side and that’s it. I used to draw people, but not anymore. It’s very detail-specific. If a facial feature is half a millimeter off, it doesn’t look like them and they’re not happy. It causes too much stress.”

Casey, who is in his 40s, emigrated to Canada 11 years ago, partly to get away from the “grey and rainy” Netherlands, but also to escape a place where he never felt understood.

“I was never happy there,” he says of his homeland. “It was always very lonely. People were closed-minded and backwards. I was bullied wherever I went. I never had any friends. I needed to get out.”

He chose Montreal because of its appealing climate and also because he is “amazed at how friendly people are.” 

“They don’t judge each other. There are so many different kinds of people here, and they are much more open-minded than what I was used to.”

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Remrov's drawings blur the line between sketches and photography.

Misunderstanding autism in childhood

Casey wasn’t diagnosed with autism until he was already 21. He has a twin brother, so his mother was able to compare their development, how well they communicated with others, and the social interactions they were comfortable with. He went through a multitude of tests, with no conclusion ever being drawn.

“Not much was known about autism then,” he says. “Most people thought that the reason I had trouble communicating or interacting was because I had trouble coping with my parent’s divorce. But my mother and I both felt that that couldn’t be it. I was trying so hard to fit in, but nothing was going well and I felt burned out.”

At 21, he and his mother spent a few days at a Dutch organization committed to mental health, going through a barrage of tests and interviews; Casey emerged with an IQ score of 158 before being diagnosed as autistic.

“By then it was way too late,” Casey recalls. “I was already struggling with every aspect of my life from childhood. There was some anger, because by then I was too old for many things that were available that could have helped me much earlier in life. I felt that my life could have been much better than it had been.”

Still, once Casey was identified as being on the autism spectrum, he faced many lingering misconceptions about autism, including the particularly harmful myth that individuals on the spectrum lack any abilities or gifts to contribute to the world.

Autism isn’t a burden, it’s an asset

“People literally taught me that I was not capable of achieving anything,” he says. “They write you off. They don’t encourage you to do anything, just go watch TV."

There was this feeling that I was a burden to society. But autistic people can be an asset, we can be good at things that neurotypicals are not as good at, and ultimately, we can complement each other.

Today, Casey lives a happy and fruitful life in Montreal, making a living as an artist and gaining recognition as an autism advocate; in 2017, he won an INAP (International Naturally Autistic People) award, representing Canada as an artist. In 2020, he published a book Connecting With The Autism Spectrum: How To Talk, How To Listen, And Why You Shouldn’t Call It High-Functioning

When he’s not drawing, he likes to go for long walks with friends in the mountains near his home and settling in for movie nights at home. “I like horror films, thrillers, disaster movies, you know, where meteors hit the earth. But only if they are good stories.”

 

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Follow Casey’s instagram account @remrov_artist

Casey’s Words of Wisdom

  • Surround yourself with people who see your strengths and not just your weaknesses.
  • Find a group that is open-minded and who appreciates you for who you are.
  • Be true to yourself. There’s no point trying to be somebody else; you can only keep up with that for so long.