SYDNEY - Artist Tim Sharp cannot explain why his colourful work has such appeal, or how the cheeky superhero he first drew when he was a child, Laser Beak Man, has won fans around the world and become a television series.
"Drawing makes me really happy, doesn't it mum," is all he says, as his mother Judy sits beside him in Sydney's Hyde Park. "Colours can make me happy. Am I doing well mum?"
Sharp, who turns 26 this month, was first diagnosed as autistic when he was three years old. At the time, his mother was told he would never talk, go to school or feel real affection for her. One doctor encouraged her to put him into an institution and move on.
Judy knew her son was intelligent and loving, but it wasn't until she began drawing pictures to communicate with him that he seemed to "switch on".
The first time she drew, Tim grabbed her hand and pushed it towards the pencil for her to pick it up and keep drawing. "And that in itself was a major interaction, he hadn't done that before."
The discovery was a breakthrough, meaning day-to-day activities such as going to another child's birthday party, which had once made Tim deeply anxious, became manageable once shown to him in pictures.
"Now I was able to show him the sequence of what you do - we go, we take the present, we blow out the candles, we sing 'Happy Birthday', and then we leave.
"And as soon as the candles were blown out we had to leave," she says, laughing. "But he didn't scream for the hour or so before that so it made a difference that way."
Once Tim starting drawing, it was quickly clear he had his own quirky style.
"I don't know that it was Picasso or anything like that, there was just something about it for a four-year-old," Judy says.
"What he tended to draw tended to have a lot of personality to it. And then he liked to watch me draw, which was a big thing because I couldn't maintain his attention on anything else."