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Members Highlight: Edek Thompson

Edek Thompson is a Leeds based community artist, who paints the apocalypse one dog, pigeon or crow at a time. Creating fun and disturbing images of a future ravaged by climate change, he imagines a world full of mutations and strange adaptations, where duck feet and waterproofs will aid survival in a new lifetime underwater. Edek’s artwork is helping to create a future mythology, a way to remember and document the things around us for when they are no longer there. Sustainability and accessibility are key factors in Edek’s work and inform his material choices.

He uses found and donated materials, household emulsions rescued from landfill, boards from building sites and vinyl from sign shop bins, along with the stuff people usually have lying around at home like pens, pencils and crayons. Using these materials and working from reference photos that he has taken himself, Edek

hopes his creations can help to spread a little joy and optimism at the end of the world.

Edek facilitates art based peer to peer support groups, providing safe, inclusive spaces for all to explore creativity, do something positive for mental wellbeing and combat loneliness and isolation.

Where are you from and where are you currently based?

I’m from Scarborough and moved to Leeds in 2000 for uni and stayed. I’ve spent time living in and working in London, and also 5 years in Kyrgyzstan working with a local charity supporting children with autism and their families. Moved back to the UK in 2020.

Did you always want to be an artist/creative? What inspired you to pursue your creativity?

I thought I was going to be a dentist until sixth form. That’s where my need to make art really started, and I soon stopped attending science subjects in favour of spending time in the ceramics studio. I come from a creative family, and making art was always encouraged.

What was your trajectory into the creative world like?

I studied fine art at Leeds Met and graduated in 2003. After uni I continued working in retail which I’d done since the age of 16, and all through uni to support my studies. I soon found this to be exactly everything I didn’t believe in. I left retail to work with adults with autism, and started supporting art based sessions. I also spent years working in SEN schools, again working with the art department.

My partner and I accidentally moved to Kyrgyzstan in 2015. In Kyrgyzstan, working alongside my partner, I worked as the project lead in the creation of the first educational provision for children with autism in the country. Although most of my work concentrated on staff development, I still worked a lot with kids in creative sessions, developing an art

curriculum and facilitating accessible and inclusive art activities. Covid brought us back to the UK in 2020, and back to Leeds, where I had work as a sign fitter (work I had

done between other jobs). But as my physical health deteriorated due to chronic pain, leading to serious mental health difficulties, it was clear that I had to concentrate on my art practice. In 2022 I took the decision to become a full time artist.

What have been the biggest barriers you’ve faced as a working class creative?

Money is the biggest barrier. Although I’m working as an artist now, and through my community projects I have some income, I still need to pick up bits of part time work to supplement my income. So many opportunities and open calls require the artist to pay application fees, or a charge per piece of work for successful submissions, which means these opportunities are out of my reach and inaccessible for many artists, no matter the stage of their career.

What are you working on/ thinking about at the moment?

Although I describe my work as ‘painting the apocalypse’, a more accurate description would be that my work is an exploration of my anxieties, isolation and loneliness due to chronic pain, and the deeper causes and roots of mental health difficulties. I have started a new series of works which more openly explores these themes through large scale painting

and drawing. I also have a project - Catastrophic Closeness - which is a continuation of the drawings I started when my brother died from cancer. An exploration of the deepest sadness I have known, and a questioning of how we find connection through tragic events. This project is now a collaboration with writers, poets and musicians, and I hope to create an installation and have a series of live performances of the written works towards the end of 2024.

Describe a project you’ve completed that you’re proud of.

In 2023 I had two solo shows, both called Teaching Children About The Colour Green. The first took place at Left Bank in Leeds in February, and the second ran from November to the end of December at Redcar Palace, in Redcar, with the support of Tees Valley Arts. Seeing how my work had developed over the year, meeting and chatting with so many people who came to see the shows, and the overall response to my work left me feeling pretty proud.

Why is art/creativity important to you?

The experience of grief and loss, and the use of art as a meditative distraction from chronic pain, helped open up real honest conversation about mental health and the need to act on the isolation that I experienced. The conversation led to the setting up of peer to peer support groups, using art as a facilitator to build social connections and eventually community. Art keeps me well and makes it possible for me to talk about the things I need to talk about.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Draw more, talk more. It’s good for your head.

You can find Edek via the following:

Socials: @edekthompson @edeksdoodlechat

If you are a WCCD Member and would like to feature in our next members highlight drop us an email at

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