Anna Higgie Talks
Anna Higgie first came onto our radar via the superb sleeve art for Kuedo's 'Severant' LP on Planet Mu. Since then we've spotted her work all over – murals at glasto and other festivals; illustrations in various magazines; book covers; record sleeves. Higgie's style is at first bold and direct – strong geometric shapes and a minimal palette – but on closer inspection it retains a vulnerability that draws the viewer in further.
We took the opportunity to sit down and ask Anna a few questions, taking in her inspirations, love of Bristol, big first jobs and future plans…
Hi Anna! First off, for those who arent yet familiar with your work, could you explain who you are and what you do…
Im an illustrator living and working in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol. I draw images in graphite, ink, watercolour and pencil, and then manipulate my drawings on the computer to create bold yet delicate, graphic, sometimes colourful and psychedelic artwork, for clients ranging from ACE Hotel Shoreditch, to Bloomingdales New York, to the National Institute of Fashion in Italy. I do a lot of editorial and portrait work, but my favourite type of commission is usually in some way linked to fashion illustration.
Did you set out to become an illustrator after leaving art school, or was it something you fell into?
When I was at art school I studied traditional Painting and Drawing, lots of Life Drawing. I had some vague, nebulous idea of becoming an Artist, but I was not really sure how the specifics of that would pan out. I was very young when I started at Art School (at the National Art School in Darlinghurst, Sydney), only 17 years old, so I guess the time I spent there was really very much in my formative years, and it was a great chance to practice tons of drawing, and learn various painting techniques.
Conceptually however I was at kind of a loose end, and the fact that most of my favourite artists were either comic book artists, cartoonist and illustrators kind of jarred with the ideals my Art School upheld. Illustration was kind of a dirty word. So when I graduated from art college and I didnt have tutors breathing down my neck, it was very liberating and it didnt take me long to realise that illustration was what I definitely wanted to do.
What brought you to Bristol – what was it about the city that drew you in?
The people! Id been living in London for about a year and hadnt made one good friend. I came to Bristol for a wild party at my cousins house (he was in his final year at UWE when I came to visit), and I instantly clicked with people. Everyone was so open, friendly, creative, and up for good times! About a dozen or so people that I met at that party are still good friends of mine now, 8 years later.
2013. Pair of Mixed Media drawings for the Tribeca branch of American Cut.
(pencil, ink, watercolour, digital)
I read that your first big, paid job as an illustrator was for Sigerson Morrison, how was that – were you intimidated?
Yes I was intimidated! I also didnt really have a clue what I was doing at the time! I was very young and just starting out as a professional illustrator, so I was lucky to get the job.
Because I never formally studied illustration, my professional training consisted of learning on the job. I had to learn the hard way, by making lots of mistakes whilst trying to negotiate the complicated back and forth process of working with a client to a brief. There were a lot of very late nights, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears working on that job, but I learnt so much. I feel immensely grateful to my agency, Art Department in New York, for picking me up when I was so young and inexperienced, and having faith in me to be able to do big jobs for big clients.
Who or what would you say is your greatest artistic muse?
I am obsessed with the face of the model Guinevere Van Seemus. I could look at her face all day long. I have a folder of pictures collected from the internet on my computer called MUSES, and 90% of the images are of her. Her closest rival is Jessica Stam.
Your work for Kuedo is really great – how did that collaboration come about?
He (Jamie) just emailed me from Berlin one day and asked if Id like to collaborate for his album cover. Of course I said yes! He sent me lots of reference images and mood boards of Blade Runner and androids and stuff like that, and we Skyped a lot and talked about ideas. He was a joy to work with actually. He had great ideas and was quite specific about what he wanted, but was also extremely open minded and receptive to my ideas. The perfect client really.
KUEDO 'Severant' LP cover artwork / PLANET MU Records?
I see youre part of the Rare Kind agency, best known for their street art stuff – do you do much street art yourself?
I have dabbled, and its something Id love to get into more. Its such a joy to work with messy bright paint on a big expanse of wall, when Im usually used to working with fiddly graphite on tidy bits of paper at my desk.
Have you been involved with the See No Evil event?
I worked on the bar at the after party two years ago – thats the extent of my involvement thus far! But obviously I would love to be invited to paint a piece, I think its a great project, especially for a town like Bristol which has some really grim and grey inner city areas which have really benefitted from being brightened up a bit.
Being based in Jamaica Street studios, are you surrounded by an inspiring mass of talent – anyone in particular who really stands out from the crowd?
Yes Jamaica Street is a wonderful place to work, I personally think its so important to be around other artists and avoid isolation. I share my studio with Anouk Mercier, who is an incredible fine artist (not an illustrator), yet we have so much in common in our practice. We both draw in very fine, detailed graphite, and have nerdy conversations about paper, pencils, erasers, and other various bits of stationery. I love working alongside her, we chat a lot and listen to a lot of This American Life as we scribble away.
Bjorn Rune Lie is on the floor below me, and he is a real inspiration to me. His style is very different to mine but I am fascinated by his process and I always want to go down to his studio to pick his brains and see how he does it.
The illustrator Chris Wright is in the room opposite me on my floor and what I admire about him is his incredible work ethic! He is always in the studio, always drawing. Although I dont even think its like work to him, he just wakes up and starts drawing, I think its just like breathing to him.
2012. Alis Pelleschi
Your works been called black cubism. If this were an actual movement, who else (if anyone) would be a part of it – who are your artistic peers with a common stylistic approach?
That is a term that a blogger came up with, and refers to a particular style that I do sometimes (usually only when people ask me to, as to be honest Im a bit sick of doing it. Im more into colour these days.). I like the term, its quite sexy, but Im not sure if my work is cubism strictly speaking, so Im not sure how accurate the label is. I certainly wouldnt want to start a black cubism movement – its not even my favourite style to do. At the moment Im really enjoying using watercolour, bright colours, and a more organic, loose feel. Maybe Ill figure out how to combine black cubism compositions with something a bit freer and colourful, that could be the next thing
The work of people like Schiele really shines through in your illustration – who would you say is your number one favourite artist, the artist thats remained important to you for the longest period of time?
I couldnt possibly name but one! It changes from day to day, there are so many wonderful artists out there that I look upon for inspiration. And with everything being so easily accessible online, sometimes I feel like theres too much inspiration out there, and I get a bit overwhelmed.
James Jean, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Paul Noble, Daniel Clowes, Cecilia Carlstedt, Hope Gangloff, Jonathon Burton.. Joanna Newsom.
Aubrey Beardsley is an artist I have always come back to, again and again.
But probably Schiele and Klimt have been my most long term influences because I partly grew up in Vienna, which is saturated with their work. I saw a lot of it, particular Klimt and other artists of the Secession when I was a kid in Vienna.
What have you got coming up in 2014 and beyond?
At the moment Im doing lots and lots of work for the National Institute of Fashion in Milan (the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana). Im making a painting for a new cafe thats opening in Atlanta, USA, and some large scale drawings for a new branch of American Cut, also in Atlanta I think. I need to finish a series of illustrations to accompany a book of poems by Rebecca Tantony, a Bristol based poet and friend of mine. Ill be designing and building the WOW stage at Glastonbury again. And I have a little exhibition coming up in April at the Alma Tavern in Clifton! .And lots more I hope, watch this space.
For more info on Anna Higgie make sure you check out her website.