Artists of Debate: Interview with Lucy Higgins @_iggyucy
by Sam Clark (he/him)
I spoke to close friend and frequent Debate contributor, Lucy Higgins, from her family home in Kirikiriroa, Hamilton - where she grew up. She studied communication studies at AUT, majoring in digital media - and has always created illustrations and paintings inspired by personal experiences and those around her. Lucy has developed a strong, psychedelic and expressive style over the years - and now she’s off to Naarm to see what’s in store.
Sam: Kia ora, Lucy! Ki te pēhea koe? Lucy: Ki te pai, Sam! I’m doing good. I’m just chilling in Hamilton at the moment, it’s a lovely day.
S: Tell us about your journey into art... L: I didn’t expect myself to take it to the level I have. I never studied art in highschool. The only time where I practised it in high school was in year 13 printmaking, which really showed me how fucked NCEA is with the arts. It’s very restrictive. When I came home from school, I'd spend ages painting and drawing. It really picked up once my grandad passed away. He was a bit of an artist himself - he went to the Waikato Arts Society, doing sketching and stuff. But he was more into realism. Before he passed away he gave me all his paints and I still use them to this day. So, art motivated me to connect with my grandad and felt like a good way to express myself without having the pressure of having to explain myself.
From there, I went to uni. It was awesome being opened up to heaps of creative people, because Hamilton’s very conservative - there's no real creative life. I started drawing this little character called Paperbag Boy and wrote little quotes with him, and people really resonated with him. I also did fundraisers with my prints - ‘Prints for Putiki’. They were sold and all the money raised went to the kaitiaki at Putiki. From there I've just been slowly making prints and doing stuff for Debate and There’s A Tuesday - trying to get my finger in every pie I can.
S: Who are your stylistic influences? L: Jeff London, the guy who illustrated the cards for this game called Grass. Grass is basically like creating a weed empire. They've got these beautiful, beautiful illustrations. It’s very gooey-looking. He’s the main painting inspo for me. There’s also a French artist, Inès Longevial. She does really lovely portraiture, with block colouring. With drawing, I'm really inspired by childish-looking things. Even just kids’ drawings, themselves - what you see is what you get. I don’t want incredibly realistic things - for me it’s about having fun. With the higher level of detail; Ziggy Newman and the boys from Acid Mince. They’re a Raglan group who do heaps of painting and drawings. All their stuff looks pretty graphic.
S: Why’s that ‘fun’ philosophy so important to you? L: I think it’s way easier to relate to simple things. I love when artists have motifs and when they have intention every time they pick up their paintbrush; but it feels more organic for me and takes the pressure off while I'm drawing or painting. Once I get to the end of it I can look at it and go, “Oh shit, that was actually relating to how I’m feeling.” It’s easier to express myself, having a real simple, silly-looking thing. The messages behind it are a little bit easier to digest when it looks a little bit silly.
S: Can you describe your creative process? L: It’s been changing a lot recently, because I took a break from drawing when I was stressed out of my mind. At the moment, it just looks like grabbing a pen, or pencil, sitting down with a shitty little blank notebook and just going for it. I’ll often start with a piece and go “Oh, I actually hate that.” So I’ll turn the page and start again. Once I get into a rhythm, I’ll start drawing and keep drawing. I’ll add detail, upon detail, upon detail. It’s really meditative for me - sitting down wherever and drawing to my heart’s content. Sometimes I’ll think “What the hell is that?” But I still like getting it out. It’s whenever, wherever really.
S: Where do you find inspiration? L: My friends and family. I’ll hear stories from my mates about what they’re going through. One of my drawings from a while back was based on me and my best friend Bailey listening to punk in the car. I thought, “This is kind of a cool moment”. So I went home and drew it. Even with the deeper things, like my paintings - some of them I’ve based on how some of my mates are struggling with relationships and growing up. Silly little things that happen around me really inspire me. My family as well. Those sweet moments like when Dad says something funny ... I’ll draw that because I think that’s cool. Those are the main things - thinking about how people react to things and how humans are really emotional, but can’t necessarily say it or draw it. I try to embody that into something silly.
S: You’re moving to Naarm soon! How are you feeling about it all? L: Right now, I’m shitting myself, because I actually booked the flight last night - so it’s all very like “Okay, shit... it’s set in stone”. But I think it’ll be really cool to just go there and be in a completely different environment and see how I can get inspired and see others going on their creative journey. Of course over there, it's art-city. I’m looking forward to it, but it’s definitely scary. I'm sure I'll stress-draw a lot of silly things while I'm over there.
S: Should we keep an eye out on your Instagram? L: I’ll definitely be posting more - it’s how I deal with stress. I’ll be sitting in a cafe somewhere, having a coffee, probably looking through LinkedIn twenty times, going “What’s something I can apply for, or has this job replied to me yet - trying to find a moment of zen within it all.” So, I’ll be going good, but just know that I will be a little bit stressed as well, haha.
S: What will you miss most about Aotearoa? L: I was thinking about it last night... I’ll miss heaps from here, aye. I’ll even miss driving down to 121 Festival - down the Desert Road, going through those funny little towns. I’ll really miss having that so close. Just hiking, going to the beach and not having to worry about crocodiles getting me or snakes trying to kill me. And of course my friends... I’m really scared of leaving them, because I love them all so dearly. And my family, my grandma, my dog... There’s a lot that I'm gonna miss. But now’s the time to just get out there and do it!
Ka kite, Lucy - we’ll miss you!