“My Kid Could Paint That!” The Latest Update On This Terrific Documentary! Artist Marla Olmstead Was A Child Prodigy – Or Was She?

A Beautiful Work Of Art! Painted By A 4-Year Old!

It was one of the biggest stories in the art world a decade ago: beautiful paintings created by a 4 year old – but was it true?

An acclaimed documentary cast doubt on whether Marla Olmstead, the child prodigy profiled in the film actually created the paintings that were attributed to her…

My Kid Could Paint That! – 2007 Director: Amir Bar-Lev

This riveting documentary tells the story of Marla Olmstead, who began painting just before her second birthday in early 2002. According to her father Mark, he originally gave her paint to divert her from distracting him from his own painting – although he did it as a hobby only.

Within two years, the now four year old Marla – from Binghamton New York – became the sensation of the art world for her abstract artwork, which sold for thousands of dollars per piece.

Through it all, Marla’s parents, Mark Olmstead and Laura Olmstead, are shown just wanting what was best for their daughter.

But then, when big name media discovers her, some began to question whether Marla was the real artist behind the work.

The film’s Director has a few moments in the film when he questions what he may have uncovered:

Doc Director Amir Bar-Lev: [when Laura starts crying on camera on being doubted] “I’m sorry that I brought this into your house.”
Laura Olmstead: [bitterly] “It’s documentary gold.”

The paintings are gorgeous – but the movie is gut-wrenching. Who painted them? Marla? Her father? Both of them? Watch the movie and try to make up your own mind. It’s a great documentary that raises alot of questions, and it will break your heart to see what the family goes through as a result of Marla’s fame.

I loved this film, and wondered what Marla was doing a decade later – and I got my answer, thanks to a great update from Press Connects in 2015:

Here is a short excerpt from that “Press Connects” article:

Sitting in the living room of her Binghamton home Marla Olmstead laughs loudly when asked if she considers herself a prodigy. Then she answers with a quick “no.”

“I don’t think of myself in that way at all,” she says.

A decade ago, though, that was the term — along with wunderkind and whiz kid — being thrown about to describe the 4-year-old who became a media darling when her abstract and colorful paintings sold for thousands of dollars.

That’s pretty heady stuff for a toddler with a paint brush and eye for color. But a New York Times profile, television appearances and other notoriety seems to have left little impression on Marla. “I really don’t remember anything,” she says.

This is a great article – while Marla still paints, her parents aren’t selling her work right now and she hasn’t done a major art show in several years…as the article goes on to note:

Art is still a part of Marla’s life. She has completed eight to 10 paintings over the last two years and takes lessons from Alisha Sickler-Brunelli, the sister-in-law of Anthony Brunelli, and is working on more realistic styles and techniques.

Anthony Brunelli says he still gets six to eight inquiries a year about Marla’s work and could have sold some paintings for good amounts of money. But Marla’s parents have vetoed the idea, wishing to keep her out of the spotlight.

Looking back, Brunelli admits to being naïve a decade ago. “I expected interest, but I didn’t expect the firestorm to come,” he says.

A terrific story by Press Connect – see all of it here:


Let me know if you’ve seen this terrific documentary!

Categories: Art, Books / Media, Cult Movies, documentary films, Great Films, Independent Cinema, Memoirs, Movies, Obscure Movies, Pop Culture, Talent/Celebrities, Uncategorized

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40 replies

  1. I saw this documentary years ago and rewatched it recently. The father over explains and keeps talking non stop with so many excuses that he digs his own grave. The look of guilt on his face when Jane Paulie asks if he helps her? If he looked at me like that, as a partner, I would know he’d been cheating! In one of the pictures shown here with the article Marla is holding the paint brush backwards! Some of these works are physically too big for her to even tackle, something he didn’t take into account but critics certainly did. I wish he’d come clean once and for all- for her sake.


  2. I just re-read this. I think it was seeing it when you first posted it that directed me to that documentary. Fascinating. If she’s still painting–and apparently doing it by herself–perhaps she really was a prodigy? I know the film tries to steer it towards it being the dad–which does seem likely. But who knows?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wonder if there will be a new documentary at any point that gives clarity…I haven’t seen anything to suggest that is happening, and yes, the commentary asks troubling questions about the Dad’s role in her painting…thanks for commenting!


  3. Please delete this terrible comment

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy, I had to go back through a year+ of comments to locate the original post but was able to and have deleted it – it was a shameful, hateful thing for someone to post – thank you for making me aware of it


  4. Terrible thing to say about a child. Wtf is wrong with you!


  5. So the question still remains: did she alone paint all those paintings?


  6. Reading through the comments, it’s interesting to me how many people still believe she actually painted the paintings. It’s as though people WANT to believe it so bad they are willing to ignore evidence to the contrary. I’m not trying to convince anyone that she didn’t paint the paintings if that’s what they choose to believe, but I feel it’s some sort of self-delusion (albeit a fairly harmless one), which is to me just as fascinating as her story. So thank you to everyone for posting your thoughts: it’s enlightened me to the mental state of some of my fellow human beings. It’s sad to me that people are still unable to use logic to overcome emotion, but I suppose that’s what makes us human, to a degree.


    • Jason, you comments are weightless. If you were not there, how would you or anyone know the truth?
      When I was five, I made similar paint lines an and paint scribbles with different colored paint. If this work was done by an adult it would be terribly worthless.

      The fact that you think any adult did this work, is just as insane, as the people who paid thousands of dollars for this. Your comments only make the child’s work more legitimate. It ‘s people like you who are making this family rich.

      I personally know the father,do you? How can you even attest to his character if you never even met these people? Why do you WANT to believe hat any adult would paint so poorly on purpose? You must not be an artist dude … but that is just a logical assumption. However, you assumption is not logical at all.



  7. A few of the paintings in my opinion would take a person with longer arms to make the patterns. Just a observation. Loved the documentary!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting! It’s a troubling story because she is adorable, and I want her to be that gifted prodigy…but questions get raised that don’t seem to be answered…so we have to wait and see as she gets older if this “gift” continues or not…


  8. Wait…what?? Geez. I’m skeptical myself but to say such horrible things about the CHILD?

    I know everyone’s a critic but when you watch her paint and then notice the long white unending lines on these huge pieces or the complete and total differentiation between the whole of a piece and parts that are in the corners – utterly different in lines, technique and vision, I’m thinking – imho(!) she did not achieve this on her own. Not at 4 and 2 ft tall.

    But I think some of these pieces she (and her father made) were brilliant. I would pay for some of them myself if I could afford them. Lastly I never watched the 60 min thing. I only just watched the beginning of the documentary and not sure I want to watch this family get torn up – which seems to be the angle every time we see someone do something amazing, right? What’s the angle?
    If they were tired of doubters, place a nanny cam in the room…if the Dad helped? Then he’s truly the artist in the family bc there was true genius in those early works. I wish them all the best.


  9. How the mighty hath fallen and the tables turned on old Charlie Rose. All those women with all those allegations of sexual harassment…shamed shame shame on you Charlie. And that’s so called expert on gifted children never once conducted an interview with that little girl. She based her opinion on a bit of video she watched. What kind of person calls herself an expert and makes opinions that could be shattering to a family when they don’t even talk to that family? I think the real frauds here end up being Charlie Rose and the so called “expert”. Both lost credibility with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Geez…, loser much? I don’t know what this innocent child ever did to you, but you’re clueless and needlessly mean to this young woman.

    I don’t have a moment of hesitation in telling anyone she did these paintings herself. I’ve been a professional artist for all of my adult life and have seen the most amazing art done by children. She is no different, and the hit job by Charlie Rose (Now thoroughly discredited.) was appalling. The so called expert who weighed in on the painting is equally clueless. She has no idea what she’s talking about, and was totally unqualified to comment, but she slandered her instead. You can debate the wisdom of what the art dealer and her parents did in promoting a true prodigy in light of the small sampling of horrible comments made here,

    A child prodigy may not grow into a Picasso, but Picasso was a child prodigy who was allowed to develop and grow into himself in a way that Marla was not. I don’t have a moment of doubt about her talent as a child and anyone who would attack her for any reason should be ashamed of themselves for lashing out at a child for having something they surely lack. Rest assured Marla, I believe in you and hope you will find your way to make art for yourself and only yourself. Whether it’s art or anything else, don’t let anyone get in your way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure why someone would post such a hateful message, thanks for defending Marla…the documentary raises issues and no child should have to be subject to such intense scrutiny at such a young age…that was NOT the intent of the documentary until tourbling questions were raised…


  11. Hi my name is Allison LeBaron and I had to chime in after I watched your documentary. I’ve been an artist my whole life. My main love is Clay and used to play in the dirt and make mud pies when I was a toddler. I have my own Art Studio now,(artalleystudio.com) and I teach painting and Pottery.

    Many years ago, When I was volunteering at my daughter‘s daycare, the Daycare teachers had an easel set up with all the tempra paints and I watched while the children painted. They made these beautiful paintings, so abstract and bright, very similar to Marlas paintings. I would grab the child’s finished and beautiful painting off the easel and put a new piece of paper up for them to paint. When the daycare teacher caught me taking the papers off the easel she said “stop! we can’t afford for the students to use a different piece of paper every two minutes.“ She said “These paintings aren’t done until they are “gray”.” So she let each child paint For a while but the children stirred the colors so much that every painting turned gray. That’s how I discovered why my daughter brought home gray paintings from her daycare, because she was not allowed to use a new sheet of paper every two minutes.

    How your daughter might be different from other children is that she must’ve quit before her paintings turned gray. The large format with acrylic paints probably helped. I congratulate you for providing her with beautiful canvases and all the paint and brushes she could use. I think I learned a couple things when I was watching her paint that will help me in my pursuit of abstract painting success.
    I believe you, that she is a normal kid, not a prodigy. The professional art materials and your support allowed her the majestic results that she has achieved.

    thank you
    Allison LeBaron

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My comment will likely not be popular. I paint. I was and am very suspicious about this 4 year old child could accomplish her reported paintings. With this said, I’m amazed at some of the comments. Blaming or scolding journalists for reporting what they believe are the facts. As a parent myself. I would never have placed a 4 year old child into such a predicament. The parents alone, not journalists are solely responsible for protecting their child. Gallery owners (imo) are the scourge of the art world and will use anyone, including a child, to make a profit. Still, the parents are responsible for protecting that child even if it costs them the reported millions in “art” sales. I am absolutely convinced Marla never painted the reported paintings. Its impossible!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Manny, I appreciate your comment, and you are very articulate in your points…I was very troubled by the end of the film, because it seemed the filmmakers suddenly found themselves making a very different film than they thought they were making…more than anything, it’s a tragedy that a small child should be subjected to what happened…so sorry for her, regardless of who painted that art…


  13. I’m so angry how Charlie Rose covered the story about Marla. It was such dirty journalism. I feel so bad for how the family was treated.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I just found this documentary & let me stress “I’m not one who makes judgements or never goes out of my way to comment”!
    I’m no prodigy!! Period! But at very young age.., I knew composition, instinctive color & theory. I don’t know why??
    I have built a business earlier using my …….., I call it “Cleverness “, My point is: At a child , into my teens & actually presently never wanted people to watch me. I’m now 55yrs old!! I never & still don’t want to explain myself About how I come to an idea or image! The fact that this brilliant little girl & her parents had to be on guard, makes me sad! My own family still doesn’t get it!
    Whether or not Marla’s dad coached her( highly doubt!) I see a little person who instinctively knew colors! I’m also really jealous that she had no concern about the cost of paint, lol! Which is another factor of a innocent that is “just creating!” An adult would be more cost effective, hence the F’n beauty of being in the moment & child. No fear when young & no concept of business! I know from experience that when something was so rooted & automatically part of me………., that unfortunately it was tainted when I had to put a $$$ and perform.
    So Olmstead family, I get it! In no means am I comparing My life to yours & Marlas! Dad…., think you were living your fantasy, but uncommon when it comes to encouraging the arts & I definitely appreciate that part of this story. SO MANY do NOT get that kind of support!
    Mom….., you knew??? Doesn’t take anything Away about you as a mom! Doesn’t matter what I think!!!! You’re a GOOD MOM!

    So weird, I made a point to comment! I instinctively went into protective mode after watching documentary last night. WE CANT & WHY is It ALWAYS NECESSARY to EXPLAIN something magical & innate!!!
    Forever will wonder?


  15. Good on the Olmsteads for keeping Marla out of the limelight. With the level of toxicity on social media and the constant presence of people who will not let things go, someone is bound to bring up the questions raised in the documentary were she to put on public exhibits.

    In an ideal world, Marla’s past as a prodigy should be behind her. Even if her father was responsible for the paintings back in the early 2000s, Marla had no say in the matter. You can’t blame a four-year-old for decisions that her parents made (if there were indeed some sort of deception going on), and Marla should be able to live her life without that forgettable chapter hanging around her neck.

    I really wish Marla the best and hope that she does well wherever her path takes her.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I haven’t seen this but I will hunt it down and find it and watch it … your review is informative and enticing and I feel a deep need to watch for myself. Job done, sir!!


  17. An interesting topic and write up, John. I’m curious to see if she will try painting again.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I love how she was too young to remember anything. If he faked it, you have to give him credit for fooling those ‘experts’. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I think 60 Minutes did a piece on this, but I never heard of the controversy that followed so I’m very much interested in this documentary.

    Liked by 1 person


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