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California Artist with Autism Uses His Synesthesia to Paint Vivid Portraits: 'I See Beautiful Colors in My Dreams'

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Courtesy Chantal Sicile-Kira

Jeremy Sicile-Kira, a 27-year-old artist with autism, has sold dozens of his stunning, colorful portraits to people all over the country.

The Del Mar, California, resident has synesthesia, a scientifically studied condition that produces a blending of the senses. In Sicile-Kira’s case, he can see people’s moods and auras represented in an array of colors, which he turns into paintings that he sells.

“I see color in everything that is alive – in people, animals, plants, even butterflies,” Jeremy, who has very few verbal skills, tells PEOPLE through email. “Color is evident in everything to me. I see people’s emotions translated into color when I look at them. I see more great colors in people’s faces depending on their mood.”

Chantal Sicile-Kira, Jeremy’s mother, says three years ago her son asked if everyone saw people in colors, like him.

“I said no, and that makes you special! He has this incredible ability to sense people’s personalities,” Chantal tells PEOPLE. “He can see pain and sadness and happiness and joy. He has a true gift.”

A year after finding out he had synesthesia, Jeremy decided to create custom-made artwork based on the colors constantly swirling around in his head.

Jeremy smiling for the camera with his portraits behind him
Courtesy Chantal Sicile-Kira

Jeremy meets with clients (if they live far away, he Skypes with them) in order to “read” their colors. It then takes him a few weeks to finish the painting and send it off.

“I can make people happy [with my art] and I just feel grateful to have a way to give back to the world of people around me,” says Jeremy. “I hope [the recipients] feel happy about their life and greatly feel and realize they are beautiful on the inside as well as outside.”

Stephanie Rubino purchased one of Jeremy’s originals at a silent auction to benefit autism two years ago.

“We video-chatted and he asked me questions and got to know me,” Rubino tells PEOPLE. “He used a letter board to communicate with me and I could tell he was intensely focused on me and on finding out who I was.”

Stephanie Rubino’s portrait
Courtesy Chantal Sicile-Kira

Three weeks later, Rubino, who has a son with autism, received a canvas displaying waves of blended greens and yellows and blues and purples twisted together.

“The colors represented me so accurately,” she says excitedly. “It’s beautiful. I could just tell that for him, he’s doing this because it comes naturally and he loves doing it.”

The painting hangs above Rubino’s desk in her house, so she can see it every day.

Jeremy in his art studio
Courtesy Chantal Sicile-Kira

Jeremy’s first curated solo art exhibit, Inner Dimensions, will take place in San Diego, California, starting April 11, to coincide with Autism Awareness Month.

He hopes to sell enough of his paintings, which range in price from $175 to $1,800, to one day become completely self-sufficient.

“I see beautiful colors in my dreams and I wanted to see that beauty in real life,” explains Jeremy. “[Painting] calms me. I love the movement of the brush It’s like a musician truly playing a beautiful instrument: both have great melodies.”

He adds, “Painting is a release for me.”