Adam Higton

Illustrator

What initially got you interested in your practice?

Hello George. I have always loved drawing and image making since a young age.  But I stopped doing it after I finished school and became more interested in photography and film making.

I started my BA in Fine Art at U.W.E. in Bristol as an experimental film maker and my friends would say “these storyboards are cool… you should do more drawing.”  Feeling encouraged I initially started drawing myself in these spiritual settings and environments in a sketchbook.  I never showed them to people, but after showing them in a tutorial I was encouraged to explore these drawings more.  In my second year I spent five months in Bergen, Norway where I was doing an Erasmus exchange.  This was the turning point.. five months to myself amongst the mountains of Bergen looking at Raymond Pettibon, The Royal Art Lodge and listening to The Incredible String Band and Jefferson Airplane… My drawings shifted from being these serious personal spiritual depictions into illustrations of mythical folk inhabiting a strange forest world and these characters remain integral to my artistic practice today.

Did you go to university? If so how did it help your working process?

This is answered above.  One particular piece I remember was making a video piece and animation about a mystical woodsman in the New Forest.  I remember it mostly because I asked my mum to film it.

Can you tell us about some of your favourite collaborations?

I don’t do too many collaborations as such.  I think I am probably quite difficult to work with and my own practice is quite personal.  However as an illustrator you could say that most commissions are a collaboration between yourself and the art director.  I think to make a successful illustration it really helps if you and the art director are on similar wave lengths and they understand your practice and assign you to either something relevant or offer sound guidance if not.  Most are very good but some directors I have worked with have been vague and difficult at times, usually it still works but it can make the process a bit more frustrating.

Do you have any inspirations, If so who and why?

My inspiration comes from a wide variety of different sources so I might just make you a quick random list if that is ok.

The following make me feel motivated and empowered to make new art.  There is probably plenty I have missed out but I hope this helps in some way?

Bruce Lacey
Nieves Books
Dick Bruna
Leo Lionni
Royal Art Lodge (Michael Dumontier, Neil Farber, Marcel Dzama)
Sister Corita
Marcus Oakley
Stewart Easton
Richard Woods
Folkways Records
Paul Rand
Alain Gree
Geoff McFetridge
Stefan Marx
Jason Polan
Matchbloc (instagram account)
Galt Toys
Tove Jansson
Space Lady
The Pogles (Smallfilms, Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin)
Moondog
Bengt & Lotta
John Clappison
Olle Eksell
Ib Antoni
Hans Bolling
Kay Bojesen
Pelhams Puppets
Jockum Nordstrom
Mamma Andersson
Erik Bruun
Peanuts Comics
Richard Scarry
Dischord Records
Tessa Layzelle
Emma Crockatt

Could you tell us about something you are currently working on?

I have an archive of collages that I am working on.  They are about this place called the Cosmic Neighbourhood which is a mystical leafy suburb inhabited by elves, witches, bugs and forest folk.  I have made songs about them and am waiting to release my third album.  More recently I have taught myself how to make carpet and am just about to make a new batch of carpet pieces, each one is square and a direct translation of a collage that I have made.  I hope that next year I can exhibit the carpet pieces somewhere in Europe or the United States and start a screen print series of the collage designs.

How important has social media been in terms of building up your profile?

I don’t like social media.  It is addictive and you can easily get too hung up on likes and followers and that doesn’t always reflect on the quality of your practice. It can be bad for your mental health.

However sadly enough you need it to make your work more accessible to your audience.  If you use it well it can be useful and has given me the occasional bit of work in the past.  My advice is stay true to your practice, ignore the stats, only post relevant stuff, don’t look at it too often.

What’s your favourite piece you have created and why?

I made some work for a big group exhibition that was for children in Germany.  Me and my friend Rob Flowers were flown over to check out this massivepumpkin festival which was amazing.  For that exhibition I taught myself how to make a 3D Viewmaster Reel.  I had three reels made in the United States and sent over and they worked, I couldn’t believe it.

I worked with a clothing company called Ball and Chain and I had a drawing of a ghost made into an enamel badge which would glow in the dark! This inspired Nieves to get one made recently of Knigi the ghost logo, that felt cool.

Do you have a specific design process? What is it?

With the Cosmic Neighbourhood stuff I chose to keep my designs uniformed by 5 colours, green, blue, pink, yellow and brown.  I am hoping that people will associate those colours with my designs.

When I record music, I record direct to a 4 track audio cassette which gives the songs some warmth and allows me to experiment more freely.

With some of my editorial pieces, I will cut and paste black pieces of paper together, and colour them on photoshop.

I only tend to make detailed drawings when I make stories and comics about Florian the boy witch.

I love using an A4 Moleskine sketchbook and in these pages I like to make quite simple line drawings which might get made into collages later on.

Could you offer young designers any advice in starting their own professional career?

Don’t stop making work.  Just because your course may have finished you need to have a fairly high output to begin with just to keep up with all the other graduates.  Don’t let this effect the quality of your work though.  Try not to move back in with Mum and Dad, find some good friends and start something together or at least share your experiences together. Most importantly you need to love what you do and make sure you have fun!  Register as self employed and get used to doing tax returns, its sucks and is boring but some clients will want a UTR code so you are better getting it out the way early on when you might be less busy than when you have urgent deadlines etc.  Don’t let people mug you off, some will try and will want things for free or in return for exposure, unless it is something you genuinely want to do, for a good cause or in exchange for something else then usually it isn’t worth it.

How do you spend leisure time?

Collaging, drawing, going to charity shops, car boot sales and second hand bookshops, listening to music and looking after my son Robin.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Who knows? I try not to think too far ahead.  I once saw a man who looked like Dumbledore get on the bus at Glastonbury, maybe that might be me in the future.

Interview Conducted by Elliot Haydon, George Richardson and George Robinson

Biography 

Adam Higton is a York/Bristol based illustrator and designer. His work primarily focuses on fictional scenes consisting of strange creatures and settings. He also creates music, which follows a similar theme. Most of his work consists of five main colours, which are green, pink, blue, yellow and brown.

www.adamhigton.com