Mercy tea, yoga and Pat Butcher

I’m still making my morning cup of tea when Dylan comes on screen, and it’s less than a minute before he’s promising to send me a mercy parcel of Yorkshire Tea, shocked at the barbaric tea conditions this Brit has to endure here in New Zealand. I laugh and ask him how lockdown’s going.

‘Weirdly OK, weirdly OK. I’m not insane. Well.’ He looks up the right, ‘nope, not insane. I had to check,’ he laughs.

‘It’s really weird. I don’t know if you remember how much of a stressy, angsty person I can be,’ he says, referring back to when we were at school together, some twenty-five years ago, ‘I’m quite neurotic, and I feel like all my life has prepared me for this moment, like, this is normal, this is how I always feel, this is fine.’ He clenches his fists in the air, victorious and laughing, ‘I have the coping mechanisms, I’m already there!’

His face turns more serious, ‘no, it’s been good, in weird ways. Like, we live in a house but we’re never in it, because I always make plans that make us go all over the damn place. Now I have no choice, I can’t leave the house.’

Dylan and his wife, Kerry, are spending a lot more time together. ‘It’s been really nice, I don’t have an hour commute, neither does she, so we finish work, congregate back in the living room, and play games, talk, watch films, that kind of thing. It’s just been really nice, and I think we’ve got closer because of it. We’re both doing yoga together now too, on a Saturday morning, which really helps with any stress or anxiety that comes up. It kind of chills me out for the rest of the day. It’s so important to look after ourselves mentally.’

I ask him if he’s always been into yoga, trying to remember whether or not I can picture a teenage Dylan on a yoga mat in my memories. ‘Do you know what, no, I have not always been into yoga. It’s what my Mum does,’ he screws up his face, ‘I was always like, oh it’s old person stuff, but I started it when I started climbing, we’d do it after a hard climbing session and I found I really enjoyed it, I learned to relax.’

He’s not the kind of person who can just sit there and do nothing, ‘I feel guilty for not working. I’m always drawing, I’m always doing something with my hands, and now it’s like, ‘no it’s ok, you can just sit‘. I think I just want to try everything, I feel like I’m running out of time all the time, so I need to keep myself busy. Drawing is therapy too; it chills me out, it’s my other go to.’ He stops, and pulls a face, ‘I sound like I’m constantly stressed or something, I’m really not, I just have these fleeting moments.’

Dylan has drawn all his life, I remember him always sketching on the school bus and between classes; he’s an epic artist, but he says it’s only recently that he’s stopped feeling guilty about the time he spends on it, because it’s not contributing to his career.

I ask him how many drawings he thinks he’s done in lockdown.

‘Not enough,’ he replies, his face serious. ‘I probably don’t start drawing until 9pm and quite often I’ll draw until midnight, but it takes me a while to get bits and bobs done. I also have heaps of ideas, and I’ll start something, get bored and then move onto something new.’

Recently he did a ‘fan art’ project, where people request drawings of characters or famous people, and he’ll draw them in his style.

‘They were surprisingly fun, although you know what, I got very British requests. All my [artist] friends get requests for manga characters, or superheros, but what do I get? Pat fucking Butcher!’

There’s a pause, which we both fill with laughter at the thought of him having to draw the legendary British TV soap character: ‘only in this country would I be asked to draw Pat Butcher, and actually, thank god for Ed asking, because I had so much fun.’

He mainly draws for his own fun, but does occasionally take requests from people in exchange for a donation to charity, and has spent many a hour with friends drawing at comic conventions, the proceeds going to good causes. ‘Oh god, I sound like a Hallmark card, but I love giving people joy through drawing, it makes me feel good.’

I always wondered why Dylan never made art his career. ‘Everyone asks this. I’d start to hate it. My job’s creative anyway, I’m a UX designer, which ticks a lot of boxes for me, and so drawing is selfishly just for me. I’m drawing what I want to draw, not what someone is making me draw; if I don’t finish one of my drawings, no one cares apart from me. I don’t want drawing to become, well, mmmphhh.’

I don’t think Dylan’s drawing will ever be, well, mmmphhh (you can check it out on Instagram @happymonkeyshoes)

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