- Nick Higgins
- Illustrator / Painter
- London, UK
CF: Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you first get involved with art and which steps have you followed to where you are today?
I was not an arty kid: it crept up on me later. I started out with photography, I used to photograph bands and gigs. Then I went to art school, where I started to draw. Illustration made sense: I loved drawing, and stories, dealing with things, reading. Illustration is a way of taking hold of things, making them my own. I started out drawing, and added paint, collage, moved into digital work, made models. I will use whatever seems most relevant to the subject. I have done a lot of embroidery, figurative and abstract, garments and pictures.
CF: What were some of your early influences and where do you look for inspiration for your works today?
Learning to draw, I looked a lot at the School of London , artists like Freud, and particularly Auerbach. This might account for my sort of fractured drawing style. At the same time I was looking at a lot of American photography: I love William Eggleston’s work, and Alex Soth. This led me into collage rather than back into photography though. I got more interested in the story telling side of illustration, and looked a lot at Sidney Nolan. He is still one of my favourite painters. ‘Rimbaud At Harar’ is a stunning painting. I went to see it several times when it was in London a few years ago, and had to creep up on it, then turn around to take it in, it is an incredibly powerful image. He has what seems like a very primitive way of working, but makes really acute landscapes, with heroic, mythical figures. He seems totally original, like he made the whole thing up himself.
Where I look for inspiration now is outside of painting. I read, I listen. Mythology and history is where I find the stories, but what I want from them is relevance, to have them explain a situation or a process. I am very interested in the occupation of America by the Europeans: it seems like that can explain how the world works, not always in a good way though. Science is the other big source of material. I look at Darwin and the early evolutionists. I used to find a lot of material in books, old travel books, encyclopedia. This has been taken over by the internet though. I keep files of bizarre images that I find , often at random, while I am surfing. There are a few great blogs that I look at a lot: bibliodyssey is one of the best.
“I have realised that working digitally removes the need for commitment”
CF: You work with both digital and more traditional techniques. How do you balance both? Is it a love hate relationship or are you able to make them coexist in harmony?
Starting to work digitally was really exciting: it made the sort of manipulation and juxtaposition of images that I wanted in collage accessible in an immediate way, and gave a huge range of possibilities to experiment with , so many tools and possibilities that the hard part is keeping it under control. Speed, convenience, accessibility, the computer has opened everything up to us. I always missed the physical though, the feel of cutting things up, and the possibilities of accidents, just dropping things in to place, and seeing what happens if you scrape, wash, melt, iron, smudge and just wrestle your images out of your materials.
I have come to realise that you can contrive the accidental in the digital though. The physical work of handling materials, the movement and the sensory experience of making something is absent when you sit in front of a screen. In terms of drawing, what I have realised is that working digitally removes the need for commitment: there is always ‘control Z’, and a previous version that you saved, just in case. In drawing and painting, you are forced to make a decision and accept the consequences . It is a discipline that the computer relieves you of. For this reason, I am doing more drawing now, and trying not to think ‘Oh, I can Photoshop that later’. There is a soullessness in the digital environment. Objects and materials can be given a heart, they retain something of the spirit of the maker.
CF: If you could choose a soundtrack for your work, what would you choose?
I have made a few longish , narrative series of pictures: Lope Aguirre and his daughter, a book called ‘Chop, Chop, Chop’, about an executioner, and the Epic of Gilgamesh. All the time I can hear Pere Ubu’s ‘Small Was Fast’: sinister, brutal, mad , inevitable.
Not the same thing as the music I listen to while I work, but the primitive being made in to something fantastic, the alchemy of it: the first three Pere Ubu make the world up. Not always in a good way though.
Albert Ayler’s ‘Ghosts’ would play along well with it as well: the order having to give in to the chaos.
“I keep files of bizarre images that I find , often at random, while I am surfing for inspiration”
CF: What is your favorite thing about living in London?
Everything passes through here, at sometime. If you want to see music, it will get here at some point. Even if you stand still, everything changes as it passes you by. Everyone comes here, and brings something with them.
CF: What are you currently working on? Are there any surfaces or techniques you would like to explore in the future?
I have just finished drawing all the inners of the Tour de France. This ticked a few boxes: I wanted to get back to drawing again, just a pencil, no Control Z. I love cycling. And the Tour is a fabulous myth, with its dramas and comedies.
I love to sew, pictures and garments. I would like to work more with textiles. I am married to a ceramist: I have acquired an interest in clay and glaze. I’d like to make some models, and work with glaze on surfaces. I have a liking for Meissen porcelain: I respect its complete avoidance of any content.