10 Facts About Stik's Sleeping Baby

Sleeping Baby (NHS Blue) by StikSleeping Baby (NHS Blue) © Stik, 2015
Celine Thompson

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Street artist Stik has always used his public-facing work to campaign for change. His Sleeping Baby pays homage to the UK's National Health Service, and comments on the vulnerability of the national lifeline.


The series is an ode to the UK's National Health Service (NHS).

Sleeping Baby (NHS Blue) by StikSleeping Baby (NHS Blue) © Stik, 2015

The Sleeping Baby series is based on a mural Stik painted on Homerton Hospital in London, his local hospital. At the hospital, members of the public queued in their thousands to pick up a signed edition of the print. Stik explained the philanthropic motive behind this project: “As an artist I’m acting as a representative of my community, showing fondness and love for an institution we all need, and expressing its vulnerability – and strength also”.


The Sleeping Baby image was used on protest placards during the junior doctors' strike of 2016.

Sleeping Baby (silver) by StikSleeping Baby (silver) © Stik, 2015

After his original mural was painted in 2015, Stik's Sleeping Baby became the mascot for striking junior doctors in the UK. With the Sleeping Baby image at the centre of their placards, text banners around the image read "The NHS is our baby", "Hands off the NHS", and "Stop privatisation".


The subject of the series speaks to the fragility of the NHS.

Sleeping Baby (red) by StikSleeping Baby (red) © Stik, 2015

In front of a boldly coloured background, Stik's cutesy figure appears in the centre of the composition dozing. With eyes closed in sleep, the curled up stick-figure rests its head on its hands. Contrary to a lot of Stik's animated figures, Sleeping Baby appears vulnerable in this sleeping state, speaking to the fragility of the NHS.


The prints initially raised £50,000 for the NHS.

Holding Hands (blue) by StikHolding Hands (blue) © Stik, 2020

When Stik originally released his Sleeping Baby prints in 2015, he sold them in an array of colours to raise money for the NHS. The prints fetched a total of £50,000, which went towards funds for the Homerton Hospital Regional Neurological Rehabilitation Unit's art therapy Creative Media Room.


The series focuses on one of Stik's six-line stick figures.

Dancer (red) by StikDancer (red) © Stik, 2011

Since 2001, Stik has been painting his socially-conscious murals around East London. The street artist became renowned for his six-line stick figures, which he has represented in various positions over the years.


The Sleeping Baby invites the viewer's empathy.

Sleeping Baby (yellow) by StikSleeping Baby (yellow) © Stik, 2015

With its eyes closed and a hand delicately placed on its sleepy head, Stik's Sleeping Baby invites the viewer's empathy. Much like the innocent baby he represents, Stik strives to show viewers the vulnerability of the NHS. By likening his sleeping baby to the NHS, Stik instills in his viewers the desire to protect the NHS as the nation's baby.


Stik's Sleeping Baby is a rare instance in which his stick figure is depicted reclining.

Hip (blue) by StikHip (blue) © Stik, 2013

Most of Stik's iconic figures have been depicted standing, walking, and dancing. His Sleeping Baby series sees the stick-figure curled up on the floor, emphasising the innocence and vulnerability of this specific character and the socio-political concern it represents.


The series is inspired by Stik's earlier work, Rough Sleeper.

Rough Sleeper by StikRough Sleeper © Stik, 2009

Stik originally conceptualised Sleeping Baby in his earlier work, Rough Sleeper. Though the work features an identical figure to the Sleeping Baby series, this particular work has an even more emotive quality as it alludes to Stik's own feelings of vulnerability while he was homeless.


Stik is not the only street artist to raise funds for the NHS.

Game Changer by BanksyGame Changer © Banksy, 2020

For the most part, street art is democratic and socially-conscious. Artists graffiti or paste their imagery in public places to send targeted messages in the service of the general public. Stik is not the only artist to use his philanthropic art practice to raise funds for the NHS. In 2020, the elusive Banksy left his painting Game Changer in a hospital. The work was eventually sold for a colossal £16.8million, and all proceeds went back to the NHS.


Stik has a personal affinity to the NHS.

The Big Issue (blue) by StikThe Big Issue (blue) © Stik, 2013

It was no coincidence that Stik's original Sleeping Baby mural was painted on the side of London's Homerton Hospital. Stik himself recalled that he visited the hospital several times throughout his life, and that “They saved my life a few times, stitched me back together”.

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