Artist Interview : Anna Higgie

25 January 2024

Having grown up in Australia and armed with a Fine Art degree from the National Art School in Sydney, Anna crossed the equator and relocated to the UK, splitting her time between London and the thriving docklands of Bristol. We pinned her down for a chat about her enthralling portfolio, it’s evolution and the processes behind it.

The quality, and distinct character, of your linework is gorgeous...

I pick up some kind of pencil nearly every day, as often as I can! All my client work is done on iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil these days and a fair bit of my personal work too, but I'm really trying to make non digital drawing with a real pencil or ink pen a daily part of my practice again, even if it’s only a 5 minute doodle in my sketchbook. I think when you find yourself double tapping your sketchbook to undo then it’s a sign you’ve been spending too much time on Procreate and need to balance out the screen with a bit more paper!

What have you been working on recently? And which more historic projects stick in your mind?

In terms of recent work, one of my favourite projects ever! But annoyingly it's under an NDA until the end of 2024 so you’ll have to wait and see! The only clue I’ll give is that it’s quite shiny and involves something very sweet and delicious… Looking further back there is something extremely satisfying about doing an entire book, including the cover. The book I did called ‘Bright Stars - Great Artists Who Died Too Young’ I thought came out beautifully and is something I’m proud to look back on, even though it’s a few years old now.

When your baby was born you gave up your studio and are currently working from home. When the time comes, where might your new workspace be?

My imaginary studio anywhere in the world would be somewhere beautiful - but not so beautiful that it becomes a distraction - and not too hot (I become very lazy in the heat). It would need an amazing play space where my toddler could potter about while I work. I’m imagining some magical Studio Ghibli forest somewhere or an enormous mid century Scandinavian designed tree house overlooking an alpine lake. But in terms of a building you can actually gaze at on Street View, the Cosmic House by Charles Jenck (a postmodern masterpiece of a building in London) would do just fine, if that could be arranged. 

Who has inspired you in your development as an artist?

I mainly owe my creativity to my parents because of how incredibly supportive and encouraging they have always been. I’ve always drawn, ever since I can remember, and was encouraged by my family and told that I was an artist. I think that's the biggest privilege you can have, just to be given that freedom, encouragement and confidence in a talent spotted by the adults in your life from such a young age. 

I also remember in secondary school there was one one particular art teacher (Mr O’Gorman) who gave me and several other students in that class enormous confidence in ourselves. Looking back I think I was only 14 or 15 and objectively a bit of a nightmare, but he saw something in me and was determined to help it flourish. And the proof is in the pudding - myself and 4 or 5 of the other students in that class have all gone on to become professional artists or illustrators. I’ve always remembered this wonderful, gentle, kind but firm teacher and known he had an enormous amount to do with the trajectory that we all took.

What kind of project are you itching to get stuck into next?

Since having a baby I have stepped away from my mural practice and am focused entirely on illustration - and I do miss painting big! So my dream is to eventually, when the time is right, get back to painting enormous things. The ambition (despite a crippling fear of heights) would be to paint an entire building, something really tall like an entire apartment building. Whenever I see other artists way up high on a cherry picker throwing obscene amounts of masonry paint around I do get a pang of envy - I’ll get back to it one day though!

And what about a dream collaboration? Which creatives out there would you love to go shoulder to shoulder with?

This is so hard, there are SO many artists that I admire and would love to work with. But I’m just going to pick one and say the Israeli mural collective that goes by Broken Fingaz - to go and paint with them (and steal all of their secrets) would be a dream come true.

How has your cultural background influenced you and your work? 

I travelled a lot growing up because of my dads job. He’s a retired diplomat and while I was born in Australia and lived there on and off I mostly grew up in Europe. Not only did we travel because of his work but we were constantly going on trips which we jokingly refer to as Kultur Ausflugs (we lived in Vienna for about 4 years in the 90s - it’s a very formal German way of saying ‘cultural outing’ which makes us all giggle). 

It was never Disneyland Paris for me and my sister - always art galleries, ancient cathedrals and crumbling European palaces. I remember a sprawling albrecht Durer exhibition when I was about 9 or 10 blowing my tiny mind, and vividly recall being hypnotised in Vienna by the work of Klimt and Schiele. But then also spending a lot of time in Australia I fell in love with the kitsch brightness of Australian icon Ken Done, and the loose and meandering paintings of Brett Whiteley. 

If we can bookend this chat by returning to your drawing practice, we can see that you’ve been revisiting old sketchbooks recently, they’re fascinating, how important has the sketching process been to your creative growth?

 My love of drawing started since before I can remember and in my early teens I got really into visual diaries and keeping sketchbooks. I loved drawing, just for the sake of it. There wasn’t really any point to the drawing, there wasn’t an end goal, it was just the thing that I loved to do.

There’s something about a sketchbook (rather than individual pieces of paper) that ends up becoming a narrative, some sort of story - albeit a very abstract one. When I look back at old sketchbooks it’s a bit like listening to an album you haven’t heard in 5 years, so many memories come flooding back of that time. I’ve occasionally tried to keep written journals but I love the way that you can channel emotion through drawing - and especially as a teenager this was essential and cathartic. 

At the age of 21 I decided to pursue a career as a commercial illustrator - and very gradually I abandoned my sketchbooks & drawing just for drawings sake. The more you step into the role of ‘professional illustrator’ the more your head is in a world of clients, deadlines, efficiency, professionalism and ultimately becoming more commercial. All of this is fine but I think to hold onto that joy of drawing just for drawings sake is so important.

To keep a sketchbook that’s not connected to your client work is to keep the childish joy alive of mark making, playing with silly ideas that go nowhere and have no commercial incentive. Illustrators are all artists that have to be very, very professional, and I think keeping a part of your practice about play (even if it’s just half an hour a week) is good for your soul and connects us to the reason we wanted to be artists in the first place.

To continue your immersion into Anna's creativity take a look at her folio. 

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