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Meet Lee Hadwin the ‘sleepwalking artist’ who can't draw when he's awake

Welsh artist Lee Hadwin has baffled sleep experts and can't draw when he's awake. Now a major exhibition of his work is opening in Croydon

Matilda Battersby
Wednesday 14 January 2015 12:56 GMT

Imagine waking up and finding a masterpiece on your bedroom wall? A man dubbed the ‘sleepwalking artist,’ who can’t draw when he’s awake, is now making a living selling his artworks.

Lee Hadwin, 40, originally from Wales, whose first UK solo show opens tomorrow (sponsored by Dreams beds, no less), started drawing in his sleep when he was four-years-old. But, the former care worker-turned-full-time-artist, admits to being “horrific at art when I'm conscious".

US tycoon Donald Trump owns a piece of Hadwin's artwork, and three of his early drawings of Marilyn Monroe were bought by The Marilyn Monroe Museum in Hollywood for more than £4,000.

Hadwin, who has been studied by doctors and psychologists both in the UK and overseas, has been described by the Edinburgh Sleep Clinic as "unique”. He reveals: “The thing that’s baffling the sleep clinics is that I cannot produce the same things when I’m awake.”

As a child Hadwin reveals he’d get up in the night and use his crayons to scribble on the walls. But it wasn’t until his mid-teens that the drawings became more detailed. “I drew the Marilyn Monroe pictures and in the morning I just looked at them and thought ‘Oh wow!’,” he said.

His parents took him to the GP to try and find a reason for his nocturnal creativity: “A lot of doctors and psychologists put it down to trauma,” Hadwin said. “But there was no trauma in my life before I was four-years-old. I did lose some friends when I was twelve, but I don’t think it was that.”

Lee Hadwin

The Edinburgh Sleep Clinic observed his behaviour but their advice to his parents was “Just let him carry on.” In the subsequent two decades he has produced more than 600 paintings and drawings of varying style and subject.

His work has now become so popular that he has given up his job caring for people who have suffered serious head trauma to focus on selling his work and working for charities. Last year he led a campaign to find a missing pensioner from Denbigh, Wales, where he is from.

In 2013 he made thousands of pounds when he auctioned a large amount of his work on eBay and donated half the proceeds to The Missing People charity.

Hadwin, who has faced years of abuse from critics and galleries, reveals he still feels like an imposter in the artworld. “I have never looked at myself as an artist. But in the last few years I have decided to stop feeling guilty about it.”

He added: “People study for years and years and work really hard. Then you get someone like me who has never been to university and who doesn’t know much about art and people are buying my work.”

But he feels he is starting to be taken seriously as an artist in his own right and has been taken on by management team Incandescent Artists.

He has just returned to the UK after a tour of the exhibition in China. Seven years ago he was profiled for ITV documentary Sleepwalker Secrets of the Night and the broadcaster is planning a follow-up programme about the exhibition, Hypnos.

Works included in the show at Kevin Zuchowski-Morrison's new art gallery, RISEgallery, in Croydon , have been chosen from works spanning 20 years. A retrospective? “It is my life’s work. I’ve chosen one from each year since I was a teenager.”

Hypnos - A solo exhibition by Lee Hadwin at RISEgallery from 15 January to 5 February,

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