From supermarket worker to sketch artist: How lockdown inspired this young autistic man to draw

When Covid-19 hit the country, Cian Parry Owen, from the Llyn Peninsula, feared for his life.

Cian, who’s 29 and has autism, wore six face masks to work at a local Spar shop in Pwllheli, before leaving his work in order to feel safer.

"The whole thing was alien to me," he said.

"I was too afraid to go to work so I came home. But in the first lockdown, I was bored and didn't know what to do."

As a way of passing time, Cian started drawing villages in the area, which have proven extremely popular.

He said: "My style is to create illustrations of local places using stickmen. I've been doing stickmen since I was four or five years old."

He has now created more than 300 drawings from his caravan at Rhosfawr near Y Ffôr, and has received dozens of commissions from customers.

"It's a special feeling that people enjoy my drawings, because I've enjoyed creating them so much," he said

One drawing by Cian sold for £650 at an auction to raise money for his mother’s partner, Kevin Rice Hughes, who has recently experienced a stroke.

Cian added: "I was so surprised that the picture had gone so expensive. It’s insane!"

Cian creates stickmen illustrations of local places.

Cian's mother, Carys Bryn, is an artist herself and has been an inspiration to Cian.

He added: "She taught me how to use colours, and she has pushed me to be creative myself. Thanks for that Mam!"

According to Carys, an art teacher at Ysgol Glan Môr Pwllheli, drawing has been like therapy for her son.

"At the start of Covid, I was worried about him. He didn't understand what was going on and was afraid,” says Carys.

"As he is autistic, he cannot hide his feelings. He would have to escape to the storeroom in the shop when things became too much.

“He would see a lot of people rowing over social distancing rules and wearing masks, and that type of confrontation would upset him terribly."

His mother decided that, after talking to the shop owner, the best thing to do was for Cian to leave his work temporarily.

She bought materials and took pictures of local buildings, to encourage Cian to paint.

"I got the idea one day to give him a blank piece of paper and to give him a challenge of creating something by tea time. Since then, he's been hooked!

"The feeling of achievement he's getting is amazing. This is like therapy for him, and having a routine is something very important for an autistic person. Art has carried him through lockdown."

Carys is currently building a gallery for her artwork at their home in Rhosfawr, and is keen for Cian to be part of the initiative.

"The idea is that he will be able to work here, and have other people like Cian here too," she said.

"Having a place to showcase his work will be a great boost to him."