Printsome’s very first exclusive interview: American noir artist Gina Higgins

A few weeks ago I received the task of highlighting the work of an up-and -coming artist or designer. After not being able to name someone from the top of my head (because I’m not anywhere near as artsy as I’d like to be), I knew I had to do my homework. After some research, I stumbled upon the pieces of a Californian artist called Gina Higgins. Put simply, Gina’s paintings moved me. There was no doubt that she was the one I needed to talk about.

If you haven’t read Creative people you need to know: Gina Higgins you can do so here.

I never expect the famous people I write about to get acquainted with my material, so it came as a surprise (to say the least) that she had not only read the article, but also written about it in her own blog.

Artist Gina Higgins at her studio, Gina Higgins, art, artist, design, interview, exclusive interview, printsome blog, t-shirt printing UK

A couple of exchanged emails later, and thanks to Gina’s own initiative, I am proud to bring you Printsome’s very first interview: Gina Higgins! Learn about her inspirations, her curious painting technique and… Liberace in her living room? I’ll let her explain…

Where did you grow up and how would you describe your childhood? 
Just north of Mulholland Drive in the Hollywood Hills. I was a reluctant ‘valley girl.’ I went to private schools with children of celebrities. There was intense scholastic competitiveness and lots of style envy. When my principal informed me I had amassed enough units to graduate a year early I was ecstatic. Lucky for me, his recommendation letter got me into USC without the entrance exam, as I would have probably failed the math! I had just turned 17.

You come from a very creative and successful family, did you ever feel pressured to follow their path?
I loved art before I was old enough to know what my parents did, so no. The only pressure I felt was self-driven. My mother is a concert pianist/recording artist. She had a hit record in Italy in the late 70s. My father was a photographer/architect and documented the iconic skyscrapers in downtown LA. I suppose coming out of my bedroom one evening to find Liberace in our living room is a disturbing visual for most kids, but it kept life interesting!

I suppose coming out of my bedroom one evening to find Liberace in our living room is a disturbing visual for most kids, but it kept life interesting!

What was your first job? Where? What did you do?
A summer job as cashier for Hallmark Cards on Ventura Boulevard. You’d think being around card designs was inspiring, but it had the opposite effect. A Vogue illustration by Antonio Lopez sparked my interest in fashion. My first art job was as a graphic artist for On The Boulevard magazine. I mocked things up using Rubylith. This was pre-Illustrator! From there I worked at CBS Studios, A&M Records, as a fashion illustrator for Liz Claiborne, and freelance for Etienne Aigner and Alexander McQueen.

If you could talk to yourself when you were a teenager what would you say to yourself? 
Using dad’s green billiard chalk as eye shadow probably isn’t healthy for a 12-year-old!

When was your first exposure to noir movies?
Very young. The company I kept introduced me to avant-garde films; but a college course in cinematic arts gave me an awareness of the creative impetus behind them.

What is it about them that inspires you?
I am interested in exploring aesthetics from a psychological perspective, and feel the noir and French New Wave films best combine mise-en-scène with provocative plot lines. Noir was born out of German expressionism, which was rooted in a period of socio-political conflict, uncertainty, and paranoia. From Fritz Lang’s “M” to David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive,” when I watch these films I can appreciate the camera angles, set design, and musical score without becoming bored with the stories.

Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger Than Paradise"

Jim Jarmusch’s “Stranger Than Paradise”

One of my favourite films is Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise; I love John Lurie’s soundtrack. I love Coutard’s cinematography in Godard’s Breathless, the sensitive treatment of the complicated love triangle in Truffaut’s Jules et Jim. I love Buñuel’s surrealistic, Un Chien Andalou, I love Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour, and I love Kurosawa’s version of The Idiot – I re-watch these films searching for nuances I may have missed, and all of them inspire me to be a better artist.

 I understand that you have a very peculiar painting technique, would you care to describe it and how did you develop it? 
I paint from 9 pm until about 4 am under 500-watt halogen lights. The effect on my canvas is synthetic sunlight. As everything has an essence, I try to produce work that represents the purest expression of what I’m trying to convey. I prime the canvas with a custom mixed dark blue gesso working from dark to light. I create best when my nerves are jangling on caffeine. Eighty percent of the time I don’t use sketches and just work things out in chalk on the canvas, but I spend days looping together appropriate music for inspiration, so the ideas are already in my head.

'The last Hour' by Gina Higgins

‘The last Hour’ by Gina Higgins

You worked in the fashion industry for a while, who is (are) your favourite designer(s)?
Currently, Antonio Berardi. Of all time, Yves Saint Laurent.

How do you find motivation and inspiration as a creative individual in a world where conform is the norm and imagination is not encouraged? 
I create my own path.

What would be your dream T-shirt design to wear? Plain? A famous artist? A quote…
I don’t care for slogans on T-shirts. Someone reading and not paying attention might walk into me. My favourite artist is Caravaggio, but ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’ is probably a bit intense. I’d have to go with Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.

You stated you’d never want your designs to be heavily replicated on T-shirts when you first picked up on our blog post – is that something you’d stand by and would never consider?
I was being cheeky. I don’t allow some of my paintings to be reproduced on anything as my collectors have paid handsome sums for the originals and some pieces were commissions; but my work is split into traditional ‘figurative’ and contemporary ‘American Noir.’ I have two different markets for each. Currently, I’m working on an edgy new American Noir collection to be offered specifically for print and more affordably, so I’ll leave the possibility open.

Are there any T-shirts which you’re fed up of seeing now and have lost all originality? ie – I LOVE NY, The Ramones etc etc.
It is original to me to see a kid wearing a Ramones or Bauhaus T-shirt, because punk and Goth are things they didn’t experience. Originality is more about how you present an idea.

As a designer you’re supposed to be pretty cool, any garment faux pas you’d care to admit to?
Thank you. I try not to be cool, as when you try you usually aren’t, but I think I’ve never really gone wrong with the aquatic look; it’s timeless!

Being a big fan of Inside the Actors’ Studio, I couldn’t help but to throw in the Bernard Pivot questionnaire.

What is your favourite word?

What is your least favourite word?
‘Like’ but only like when people pepper their conversations with it because they like can’t choose like the proper adjective.

What turns you on? 
Artistic genius, mental brilliance, and a quick wit is a triple threat!

What turns you off?

What sound or noise do you love?
Whatever music I’m listening to at the moment.

What sound or noise do you hate?
Other people’s cell phone conversations. I don’t care what Phoebe had for dinner.

What is your favourite curse word?

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

What profession would you not like to do?
Crab fisherman, but I live vicariously.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
Venti quadruple, extra-hot, extra-foam, whole milk Carmel Macchiato with whip, and I’ve just cued up Last Year at Marienbad!

If you want to know more about Gina, you can visit her website by clicking here. And keep an eye on the Printsome blog for more ‘Creative people you need to know.’

Printsome are a T-shirt printing agency offering garment printing services across the UK, from Wolverhampton to Belfast and everywhere in between. For a cup of tea, a chat and/or a quote on T-shirt printing, you can get in touch by clicking here.



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