A talented Co Antrim student took social media by storm with her first oil painting.

Zara Craig, a 9th grader at Ballyclare High School, created an oil painting of bassist Victoria De Angelis of the Italian rock band Maneskin, winner of Eurovision Song Contest.

The 13-year-old De Angelis painting was shared on social media earlier this week by Lynn Smith, Special Education Needs Coordinator at Ballyclare High School.

It has already received 19.7,000 likes on Twitter and has been shared widely with many people praising the “phenomenal” Zara for her “incredible talent for such a youngster”.

Speaking to Belfast Live, Lynn said: “Zara is autistic and also suffers from physical disabilities and anxiety. As you can imagine, the Covid-19 pandemic has been very difficult for her and she did not left home or been to school since last March. “

While in confinement, Zara took care of studying at home and completing her end-of-year exams.

“She is academically gifted, as is her older sister Hannah, who is a former student of Ballyclare High,” added Lynn.

“When I saw Zara’s painting, I was speechless. At only 13, she amazes me. As soon as I shared it on my social media, my phone started going crazy.

“I thought it would be good for her confidence if a few people liked her and shared her, but it just took off.

“I wouldn’t be a huge social media lover when it comes to young people, but the comments have all been so positive and encouraging.

“This has given Zara a real boost and she is overwhelmed by all the kind responses.”

One social media user commented: “This is amazingly good. You have a naturally gifted daughter and a perfect example of why the arts are such an extremely important part of raising children. Breathtaking work.”

Another tweeted: “Wow that’s amazing, such a talent and I’m so glad she had art to turn to during her tough times. I wish her the best of luck in everything. she does and I hope her talent will continue to develop and open doors for her. “

“Wow – what a combination of talent and hard work. Zara should be really proud of how she captured the mood and the light. It’s fabulous!” said a third.

Indeed, this is not the first time that Zara’s artistic talents have been recognized. Last year, she won first prize in the Texaco Children’s Art Competition for her work titled “Sarah’s Reflection”.

A regular at this competition, Zara has already won special merit awards in 2019 and 2011 respectively.

“Art is a type of therapy for Zara and she found drawing to be an escape method that relieved her anxiety,” Lynn said.

“She started out doing pencil drawings, then with encouragement from her art teacher at Ballyclare High Laura Conlon, she switched to oil painting.”

While many have already asked to buy Zara’s first oil painting, her current offering is not for sale.

“She is planning another oil painting and hopes to auction it off to raise money for charity, so watch this space!” Lynn added.

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