Aged 16, Halim Flowers was arrested in the United States, tried as an adult then jailed for murder. Now aged 42, he is a prolific artist, poet and writer exhibiting in Paris. The turnaround has been spectacular. Flowers was only released in 2019 after a change in US law allowed for under-18s who had been tried as adults to be “re-sentenced”. Then a year later, when Covid-19 pushed much of the world into lockdown, his wife — also an artist — suggested he should give painting a go. “I just took the brush. I had no idea about colour, how mixing red and white made pink. She told me how to do that, how to take care of my brushes,” he told AFP. Visiting AFP’s photo studio in Paris, Flowers sketched a graffiti-style drawing on a white background and explained that art was his “only drug”. “I don’t smoke drugs, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t party. All I do is art,” he said. Colourful and rich in symbolism, his work highlights the experiences of people on the margins — prisoners, the homeless, those with mental health issues. The Washington native, who is displaying his paintings until Sunday at the Champop gallery in the French capital, told the United States’ National Public Radio in 2021 he had already sold art worth more than $1 million. His life now is a far cry from that of the skinny teenager who featured in a 1998 documentary for HBO titled “Thug Life in DC”.