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'Genuine Prodigy'
First-grader showing a strong artistic flair

At first glance, the artwork appears professional. The colors, the lines, the shading, the shapes.

But then, upon closer observation, the sign naming the painting and the artist reveals a startling fact. Pamie Xiong, the creator of "Birds in a Blossum Tree," a finely crafted watercolor on antique paper, is in first-grade.

"She is one of those children who has an extraordinary gift," said Fairview Elementary School art teacher Cathleen Smallwood. "She is what I would call a genuine prodigy."

Pamie's "Blossum" recently hung in the Newton County Library as part of the school system art show. The excellence of the work caught Pamie's parents, Christy and Manase Xiong, by surprise, Mrs. Xiong said.

"We were just completely blown away by the picture," Mrs. Xiong said. "We knew she had talent. We were thinking of getting her art instruction but we never really got around to it."

Smallwood said Pamie's ability to control her pressure and direction in her strokes is well beyond her years and indeed exceeds the average adult's capabilities.

"She has the ability to turn shape in space and turn it in different positions of view yet keep the proportions," said Smallwood, who has worked with Pamie on a weekly basis for the past year.

"She has a gentle, delicate touch with the brush. That is why Pamie can do that kind of work at such a young age. She really understands how to pull up and give a fragile delicate touch."

Mrs. Xiong said Pamie knew even as a toddler how to hold a writing implement.

"We gave her a pencil to try and doodle and right away she knew how to hold her pencil," her mother said. "She loves art and she likes to draw."

Mrs. Xiong credits her husband, an engineer, with nurturing Pamie's interest in art.

"Manase is the talented person who draws with Pamie and the other kids," said Mrs. Xiong, whose family also includes children Caleb, 4; Emily, 2; and Kenji, 10 months. "Sometimes he'll put a large sketch pad on the floor. Then he and the children will all lay on the ground and draw together. Sometimes he'll draw something, then Pamie will take it and draw her version of the picture."

Pamie, which means "little flower" in Hmong, enjoys drawing a range of subjects, though, as might be expected from a 7-year-old, she is particularly interested in princesses.

"Mrs. Jeselnik is her first-grade teacher. She says that if you finish your work early, flip your paper over and draw on the back. So, on the back side of most of Pamie's school work you will see people, scenery, animals, but mostly princesses," explained her mother.

Pamie said her favorite color is blue and she likes to use colored pencils, crayons and watercolor to draw princes, princesses, cars, dinosaurs and turtles.

"I like drawing pictures because it's really fun," Pamie said.

Mrs. Xiong said she's really seen Pamie's artwork develop under Smallwood's guidance and that her daughter is fortunate to have such a talented teacher.

"We tell Pamie every day that she has the potential to become anything she wants to be," Mrs. Xiong said. "We don't expect her to be famous, we just expect her to be happy in whatever she does."

E-mail Karen J. Rohr at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.