A black CRX slows in front of Dallas Frame and Gallery, then abruptly comes to a halt.  Out steps a tall, unassuming teen-ager who silently makes his way into the gallery and toward the back, not even stealing a glance at the battery of colorful paintings displayed to his left.

 

This is Andrew Reff: 17-year-old Lake Highlands high school student, basketball player, computer animation enthusiast and artist. The paintings are his.

 

Andrew finally negotiates his way to the back of the gallery where he strikes up a conversation with his mother, the owner of Dallas Frame and Gallery, Gayle Schultz, about a painting recently commissioned by a customer.

 

As in many of his paintings, this particular rendition involves a dog sitting in a chair. 

 

"I like to paint pets in certain settings.  I’m not sure why, it’s just what pops into my head," says Andrew.

 

Debbie Smith, the Lake Highlands resident who commissioned this painting of her pit bull, Kashi, says once she saw Andrew’s paintings, she just knew she had to have one.

 

"His paintings are magnificent," she says.  "I’ve already had him paint one for me. This picture of Kashi is a gift for my mother." 

 

Andrew’s abilities emerged at an early age. When most kids were scribbling masses of color in the first grade, Andrew’s pictures made sense.

 

"When Andrew doodled as a child he drew beautiful animals and fantasy people," says Andrew’s father, Alan Reff. "Every time he found a piece of paper and a pencil, he would draw."

 

With the conclusion "Critters of Color," his debut exhibition, Andrew is starting to feel more accomplished as an artist, having sold more than 20 pieces. Each sale netted about $100.

 

"I always kind of thought that people liked my art partially because I’m the owner’s son, but I got to start seeing people’s reactions when they didn’t know I was there and didn’t know I was her son," he says.

 

 "It’s a great feeling."

 

The money earned from his paintings has been used for extras like accessories for his car, but that’s changing as a savings account has been set up for his future.

 

"He’s going to be leaving home in a year and a half and he should be prepared," says Gayle.

 

Where Andrew is going in a year and a half is California. He wants to go to college with an eye toward a career in computer animation, which he hopes will involve movies.

 

"I want to do animation like in ‘Starship Troopers,’ " he says. "That is so cool."

 

Though his talent is gaining him popularity in artistic circles, Andrew never forgets the circle most important to him: his friends.

 

"I would rather be with my friends than anything," he says.  "They all showed up at my exhibition and I get a lot of support from them."

 

 The middle child of three siblings, Andrew’s talent is eagerly supported by both parents, but the driving force remains his own will. 

 

"I think Andrew has a tremendous amount of talent, but if he wanted to stop tomorrow, it would be his choice," says Gayle.

 

Andrew, however, has no designs on stopping anytime soon.

 

"I really enjoy being able to paint," he says.  "It is a great way to express myself."