Born with half a heart, this young Virginia artist teaches important life lessons with every brush stroke

Posted at 9:14 AM, Dec 16, 2022

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. -- When Hsi Mei Yates introduced Sophia Pineda to the world of watercolor six years ago, the art teacher never realized the layers of talent her student possessed.

“That is how she creates the art. Isn’t that incredible,” Hsi Mei said. “And she paints fast.”

It didn’t take long for the 19-year-old from Fredericksburg to blossom.

Pineda’s still life, landscapes, and animal prints are her specialty. Quite an achievement given the challenges she faced entering the world.

Sophia Pineda was born with half a heart and Down Syndrome.

Sophia Pineda

“Artwork is a major way for her to express herself in ways she might not be able to do verbally,” Sophia’s mother Carol Kondo-Pineda said.

Kondo-Pineda said her daughter paints right over her obstacles while seeing wonder in the world around her.

“We just can’t get enough of it. We really love it,” Kondo-Pineda said. “Those paintings. Boom. Tells you everything she is thinking and feeling.”

Sophia Pineda’s artwork is in such high demand, her family founded Sophiola — an online gallery which, one day, may lead to her independence.

“There’s something about her paintings. There is a certain joyousness and lightness about it and a certain playfulness," Andre Pineda said his daughter’s portfolios overflowing with complex paintings bursting with color. "I think that’s what makes her art really special. It’s not super serious."

The family home is lined with smaller originals and prints painted by the high school senior. But as of late, Sophia is going big.

Real big.

This summer Sophia collaborated with professional painter Gabe Pons.

“With Sophia’s work there is a genuine honesty to it,” Pons said.

Sophia Pineda

Sophia’s creations are growing as large as her reputation as one of Fredericksburg’s most famous artists.

The team’s months-long task was to add some pop to Lafayette Elementary School.

“These murals have been making an impact and that is really exciting,” Pons said.

At 96-feet long, Life Cycles is the city’s largest public mural to date.

“When she comes she sort of elevates everyone that is working,” Pons said. "I think, if anything, the color palette reflects the vibrancy of Sophia’s personality.”

She pours her heart into each piece no matter the size. Teacher Hsi Mei Yates said we all can learn a lot from her star student.

Sophia Pineda

“I am not looking for perfect anymore,” Hsi Mei said. “It is ok to be out of the line and mess up.”

There is nothing abstract about this teen who is capable of a masterpiece with every brushstroke.

“She has found something that truly lights her up,” mother Carol Kondo-Pineda said. “We’re happy to keep that flame going, you know?”

Sophia Pineda is an artist making a splash while painting her hometown with joy. If you’re interested in exploring Sophia Pineda’s works of art or picking up a treasure for your wall, click here.

Watch for Wayne Covil's stories on CBS 6 News and If you know someone Wayne should profile, email him

Find unique, award-winning stories that celebrate voices in our community on CBS 6 News.

Do you know about a good news story happening in your community? Click hereto email and the CBS 6 News team.

EAT IT, VIRGINIA restaurant news and interviews