From 'Beyond Dredd and Watchmen' to the evolution of Liverpool.
We recently caught up with a friend of our business and graphic comic book artist, John Higgins. Over a coffee or two, we touched on the impact of his exhibition ‘Beyond Dredd and Watchmen: The Art of John Higgins’ - in which we were his creative partner - the variation in creative processes, working with agencies and the evolution of his hometown, Liverpool.
First things first, what was it like seeing your work in the exhibition?
It blew me away! The curator Leonie Sedman delivered the presentation in a way I’ve never seen before. Usually when people go into galleries it’s one picture frame nicely set against another picture frame. I don’t think it works the same for comic strips, even if you have a sequence in a row, as they’re still separated, and you lose the structure of the narrative. Whereas Leonie actually grouped them in one single frame which I thought was incredibly clever. It meant that people could see them presented next to each other in a way that combined them so tightly. She also did a lot with the layouts, the initial roughs and then the finished artwork - that was a really nice way of presenting it, I didn’t realise I’d done so much work!
Do you feel like the exhibition captured your work well?
Yes! I tend to work on something that gets published and then I put the original artwork away and tend not to look at it until the next job; so to actually see 30/40 years in one space was quite a shock as much as anything, it made me feel incredibly old! It also made me feel incredibly lucky to actually be doing the same thing that I still have a love of. It’s always completely different, every single story’s completely new, and I do approach it differently depending on how I feel that particular day.
The great thing about the exhibition for me was it made me reassess what I was doing and made me rethink the fact that I was doing something that people want to buy which was great. But when I looked at the early stuff, when I was trying out new things and trying to find the methodology that suited me, I realised that I’ve stopped doing that as much as I used to. So, I’ve set out on something new this year called ‘DreadNoughts’, which is allowing me to get back to the experimental creativity I originally had and I’m so excited about it, I feel invigorated it’s like ‘viagra for the artist’!
Has the exhibition had an impact recently?
As a result of the exhibition I sold a lot of original artwork, which was actually really nice because I’d been sitting on this stuff for thirty/forty years. The exhibition raised my profile when people saw that there were originals to buy and because of the website that Kaleidoscope created for me; but I’m also getting people contacting me because of the exhibition asking to buy artwork and that’s a finite commodity. I’ve still got a lot left including some of my premium price originals that were on display at the exhibition, but a lot of good stuff’s going!
Why did you choose Kaleidoscope to work on the exhibition with you?
Because you’re so talented. I’ve known Mike for a long time, he’s so creative and brings lots of people together creatively. I knew there was something special here when the business relocated a few years ago and I met the team. It was such a good opportunity to work with people that I liked immediately, but also knowing Mike’s history and knowing the sort of people he brings in, I knew they’d be incredibly creative. And they were.
What’s it like working with us?
It’s just brilliant, the great thing is I really feel like it’s a bunch of friends. It really is a great opportunity, and particularly due to the time spent together on the exhibition we do meet as friends and we do go out and have a couple of beers – it’s always a good way to keep a client happy, so that’s a good reason to keep coming back to you guys. Mike is a very old friend but creatively, if everyone else wasn’t as personable as he was then it wouldn’t be the same thing.
What was the difference you found working with us compared to any other agencies you’ve worked with?
I’ve worked with a few agencies over the years, although usually I’ve been employed to work with them as a partner in something creative. This is usually when there is a movie or a TV production that needs an adaptation of a character, super hero or Judge Dredd sort-of-thing; they come to comic artists to do story boarding stuff like that, so creatively it’s usually a partnership.
So coming to Kaleidoscope as a client was a really interesting experience for me. I still felt like a part of the creative line up, because I was bringing an entity that had been around for forty-odd years that I’ve been building up on like my company as such, even though it’s more intellectual property and an ephemeral collection of assets rather than a nuts and bolts product. It could’ve been a hard thing to get your teeth into but I think because my world runs in parallel to the creativity you deliver day in and day out, it’s like we joined in the middle and the sort of ideas you came up with, for me, crossed over into mainstream and opened it up to a whole new audience.
How does our creative process differ to your own?
You do a lot more teamwork. I think one of the things that I’ve found was that you were happy to talk ideas and develop ideas together. For me I love collaborating and that’s one of the great aspects of a creative process generally, but it’s usually a very small team that I work with. I don’t actually know how large your team was working on the exhibition and its promotion, but it seemed like everyone was interested in what was being done and was filtering ideas through. Everyone brought thinking in, whereas for me it’s usually just myself and the writer as my creative partner which can be a very small team.
How did it feel coming back to the city that you grew up in?
It was really weird because I left when I was 15, except for coming back and going to art college. The final time I left permanently was when I was 23 and I only come back to visit family and friends which is always brilliant but I’ve never really seen Liverpool, I’ve never really understood the way it had developed over the years. It has a place in world history, and it’s not just the Beatles - there’s lots of other things and coming back and seeing the way it’s been redeveloped and the way people are proud, they’ve actually done a fantastic job. There’s a renewed vigour in Liverpool that I felt, it might have always been there, but for me it seems to have come back stronger than it was when I certainly left. I didn’t leave because I thought it wasn’t a vibrant city, I left because I felt there was somewhere else that could give me what I wanted out of my career, but coming back was just an eye opener. And the great thing about the exhibition was a lot of friends came from all around the world to look at it and they complimented me on my association with Liverpool - they came to Liverpool and they loved it - it really impressed so many people and I’m very very proud of that and I’m proud of my association with it!