“I don’t think it has changed much, but it feels like things are growing,” says Adam Higton, speaking about the evolution of his practice. “I have been fortunate to be involved in a range of exciting and fun creative projects, which has personally helped me get through what has been a very difficult year for everyone.” Talking through the kinds of projects he’s been working on, the York-based illustrator says, “I have been able to combine drawing, collage and music,” and explains that “working between techniques and applications has offered me the chance to recharge, rethink and keep things fresh and exciting.”
Since we last spoke to Adam, prior to the pandemic, he has started a new part-time role at Bradford School of Art, teaching Art, Design and Printmaking. “It’s great to have the opportunity to bridge the gap between industry and education,” he says, “and have the opportunity to motivate and inspire [the students] and encourage them to experiment.” Most importantly, he wants his students to enjoy making work – something Adam endeavours to do in his own practice. His latest project with Caught By The River, a brand focused on all things nature, is a perfect demonstration of this in practice.
The website and online community in question explores the relationship between arts, culture and nature through literature, music, drink and more. As part of their new fundraising platform and shop, Adam crafted a custom lettering set and corresponding illustrative logo-marks, resulting in a rustic and homely exploration of elementary form, colour and wide-eyed characterisation. Under their own record label Rivertones, Caught By The River has also begun stocking Adam’s latest 7-inch EP, Trees. “I created four Tree collages and made a song about each one,” Adam says, perfectly capturing not only the versatility of his practice, but also the pastoral themes at its core.
A recent inspiration for Adam has come as a result of fatherhood. “I read to my eldest son every night at bed time and he is really into Richard Scarry at the moment,” Adam says, “or as he calls him Richard Scar Richard Scarry Scarry Richard Scarry Richard.” Enamoured by the funny and effortless way in which his son translates everyday occurrences and commonplace objects into his own unique world, Adam says: “It’s such a pleasure to see the impact it has on my son and watching him laugh as I read through it.” This inspired Adam’s expansion of Florian – a longstanding character he has developed since 2014.
“I expanded him to a wide range of different characters,” Adam describes, “diversifying and representing different gender, race and cultural identities but still keeping things gently psychedelic.” He put this into practice for a Christmas campaign and a series of internal illustrations for Aritzia. “That experience has then inspired me to explore it further by creating a children’s book,” Adam says, describing his latest collaboration with Actual Source – Fall Is….
Capturing not only his love for autumn but also for his sons, Adam tells us, “My son Robin was born on Halloween, so it’s made extra special by that,” adding, “I made the book for my two boys.” Inspired by Peanuts’ Happiness Is A Warm Puppy series, the book features 16 drawings with corresponding titles for each. “I designed my own lettering for it, where each letter was hand-cut,” he recalls. “We discussed the outcome and decided actually it was cool to make it like an alphabet book of autumn. The hardest letter was X,” he adds, “but we went for Xerox and I made a drawing of a girl photocopying a leaf.”
The result is a beautiful, earnest book that shows off Adam’s unique psychedelic, naive style. “I made the entire thing in less than a week,” he recalls. “I work like that – I get an idea, get really excited, then work non-stop until it’s complete.”
Fall Is… marks the latest of many collaborations with Utah-based publishers and design studio Actual Source, having begun their working relationship simply with a series of Florian illustrations for their website. “We then worked together on a massive Florian blanket,” Adam says. “I also made some Florian comics which were published in Shoplifters 9 [Actual Source’s magazine], and now we are working together on Fall Is….” The collaboration itself marks a wonderful transatlantic mix of content and context, from Adam’s bucolic and imperfect sense of form and character to the slick, typographically driven publishing of Actual Source.
Discussing why the pair gel so well, Adam explains, “I just think we are on the same wavelength,” noting the importance of getting on well on a personal level. “They’re like family,” he says, adding, “you should also ask them this ;).” Praising not simply their skill, but their ability to enhance his work without removing the charm that makes it so unique, Adam remarks, “They took a bunch of my drawings and cut out letters and transformed them into this beautiful, unique object. I knew they could do that, which is why it has been such a joy to work with them on this.”
Fall Is... is available to pre-order on actualsource.org.
Fall Is... (Copyright © Adam Higton, Actual Source 2021)
About the Author
After graduating from Winchester School of Art, studying graphic arts, Harry worked as a graphic designer before joining It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020. He nows works as a freelance writer and designer, and is one half of Studio Ground Floor.