A bit of dust has settled in the studio over the last few weeks. I’ve been sporting my ‘Stay at Home Dad’ hat to be with Pearl as she makes her transition from nursery to school, filling the fortnight of childcare limbo with beach walks, ball pools and lots of ice-cream. And as I watch the leaves in my garden start to change colour and feel the temperature drop, I ready myself for big changes all round.
The Covid lockdown gave many of us the rare gift of time and space to re-evaluate and reflect on where we are and where we’re headed. I realised that the work I was painting, the style I’d developed and become known for over the last 19 years no longer reflected who I was or allowed any opportunity to head where I wanted to be. So I started making plans for change, and when lockdown was over and life was allowed to slowly return to ‘normal’, I wanted my normal to be very different.
Walking away from a successful style of work that has served me well for a long time and gave me the opportunity to quit my day job and become an artist full-time back around 2007 is, quite frankly, terrifying. But I realised that nothing is guaranteed and who knows what trouble awaits us around any corner, Covid is solid proof of that. So I’d much rather risk failing at something that truly lights me up, than be successful at something that no longer makes me happy.
You see the thing is, when I first started painting back in the early 2000’s it was a form of therapy. I graduated college in 2000 with a degree in graphic design, moved to London and found myself working in web design, an industry I quickly learned wasn’t for me. Before I knew it I felt trapped in a career I was beginning to hate; my general unhappiness around the whole situation started a cycle of regularly drinking enough to kill a small horse, spiralling debt and fragile mental health that seemed to become more frayed and tattered by the week. But when I found street art and used it as a way to truly express myself creatively outside of my design job things started to change for the better. It gave me the positive reason I needed to get out of bed, I felt I finally had real purpose.
Almost 20 years on art is still my therapy. Closing the door of my studio to the world and losing hour after hour in a state of flow gifts me the deep level of happiness and fulfilment that my historically delicate mental health needs. And so if the work isn’t ticking all the boxes for me, isn’t giving me that fire, then the therapy part of it is gone and I’m on shaky ground.
But right now, things are great. As a family we’re adjusting to the new daily schedule of school drop offs and pick ups, but my artist hat is back on (for most of the day), I’m playing with new materials, learning new skills and making exactly the kind of art I want to be making under the tweaked name of Lee Eelus, which for me is a kind of marker signifying the start of a new chapter. If you’ve bought as much as a postcard from me over the past 15 years then huge thanks for your support and allowing me to show up to work day after day and do what I love. I hope you stick around to see what’s next.