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Intangible Objects 9

Intangible Objects What’s the opposite of a tangible dream?

From cartoons and anime to murals larger than life, Lydia Hignett's bold illustrations caught our eye, so we chatted to the artist to learn more about her craft.

Lydia Hignett, a.k.a Intangible Objects, is an illustrator, animator, muralist and hip-hop lover from Liverpool.

Picked by the Association of Illustrators as one of top illustrators to watch in 2021, her chunky characters and urban scenes stand out for their soulful character and use of perspective and colour.

In this inspiring interview, Lydia tells us how she became a visual artist, her sources of inspiration and her plans for the future.

How did Intangible Objects start?

I've always loved drawing. Growing up I watched a lot of cartoons and anime, mainly Cartoon Network shows like Adventure time, Regular Show and Chowder […] which I then used to sit and draw the characters from.

Although I think finding my real flair for creativity, rather than just drawing pre-existing characters, started with an app that used to be on my Nintendo called Flipnote, which allowed me to create frame-by-frame animations and post them online to a platform where I could also see other people's submissions and get inspired. I think that was definitely my ‘artistic awakening’, as far as a point in time where I realised doing art was ‘my thing’, and the very beginning of what ended up with me having a career in illustration.

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Why do you prefer to sign your work using this name and not your real surname? Where does the name come from?

The more official start to Intangible Objects came about as I did illustration at Sheffield Hallam University. I can’t remember at what point I started signing Intangible Objects instead of Lydia, but I do know that the origin of the name stems from my love of hip hop.

One of my favourite artists back then, and still now, is a rap artist called Oddisee. One of his albums is called Tangible Dream, and I just thought, what’s the opposite of a tangible dream? An intangible object. Not much other meaning to it than that, just thought it sounded cool, like it should be the name of an 80s indie band or something. I started using that cause I felt like it fitted my artwork more than just my name. Sounds a bit more abstract and suits the style!

It’s a great name. You were chosen by the AOI as one of the top ten illustrators to watch in 2021. What did that mean to you?

Getting that AOI award meant the world to me. As someone having just been fresh out of university and trying to find my feet in the art world, getting a feature in the ten artists to watch list really gave me a little push and boost of confidence I felt that I needed.

Anyone who’s done art at university knows how lost you feel coming home after uni and not being sure what to do with yourself, or struggling to motivate yourself to keep creating. I felt really lucky to have been featured as it 100% helped my confidence in starting to make moves in the industry.

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What elements of your art, in your opinion, caught their attention?

I think what caught their attention was the use of perspective and colour that was present in my featured project. The article featured work from my university project where I created a picture book that followed the narrative of Kendrick Lamar’s song ‘Swimming Pools’.

Colour and perspective were two things I really focused on to anchor the storyline and tell his tale as best as I could. I tried to use bright neons against grey backgrounds to make the characters look as if they were glowing, as a lot of the story is set in a party environment, as well as Kendrick’s imagination and memories, so I felt like having the characters look glory suited the dreamlike state, as well as characters that were intoxicated.

They're really original. Your art is inspired by hip hop culture. Could you tell us how it started? Who are some of your greatest inspirations?

I've listened to hip hop my whole life. With my dad being a massive hip hop fan I’d been exposed to it pretty much from birth. I of course listened to different music at different stages and having various phases in music taste in my teenage years, but I'd always come back to hip hop.

Hip hop is so much more than a genre of music. It has its own culture, art and history. As all music genres do, but hip hop is hugely linked to street art and cartoons. It’s a big part of the image, the attitude that comes along through the music is also expressed through street art. A perfect example most people will be familiar with is Keith Haring, who was iconic for the way he created his own visual language, in a similar way to how hip hop artists create their own poetry and flows in which to tell their stories.

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I’m not going to attempt to sum up the complex history of hip hop here, but if you just look, the links are so clear. Listen to hip hop often enough and you’ll hear consistent references to cartoons from the likes of MF DOOM, many iconic hip hop albums being known for their illustrated artworks such as Wu Tang’s Liquid Swords, Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, The Pharcyde’s Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde… The list goes on.

I think my current biggest inspirations are artists like Action Bronson, MF DOOM, Little Simz, Mick Jenkins, Erykah Badu, De La Soul… There’s too many to name them all!

Let me change the topic: some of your works reveal your commitment to sustainability. Are there any other social causes, principles or values you express your commitment to through your art, or would like to in the future?

In the past I've done some charity prints for social causes, one of which is still ongoing, which is a BLM print, with profits going to Blueprint For All, which supports funding the arts for BAME communities.

Even when not creating direct income for charities, I always centre representation in my artworks. Having a diverse range of characters not only makes my art more interesting and real, but also stands as an important social factor. You don't realise how much representation matters until you have people from the general public approaching or messaging you to say thank you, and that it makes their day to see themselves in your art.

It also really makes my day to know that I’m helping people feel seen. This is something that holds an important place in my artwork and always will, especially with hip hop being a massive influence, with its roots in black culture. It would be ignorant not to acknowledge this.

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Sustainability is also definitely something I’m working on, through using more sustainable printing methods such as risograph printing, using recycled paper stocks and printing on demand rather than having any go to waste. This is something I’m continually improving on and thinking about as an important factor of running a business. Holding these values high is something that not only means you’re doing your part in running a sustainable business, but also makes running your own business feel even more rewarding and wholesome.

You do illustrations, risographs, posters, clothes… in what other forms people can acquire your work? Are you planning to add more in the future?

I’m definitely looking to broaden my horizons in the forms my art takes. I've done T-shirts before and of course produced artworks for other people’s use on merch, such as my collaborations with other small independent brands like BYELLEVEN and Reins.

I’d definitely love to get my artwork on more clothes, to collaborate on a range of clothing at some point… just waiting for the opportunity to do so!

I have a few personal projects in the works to do some hand painted pieces, which is something I've done before for a friend. It’s something I'd be interested in taking commissions for, if anyone has any items of clothing they’d like customising.

Murals is another thing that I've done before but looking to do more of in the near future. I just love getting to see my artwork on such a large scale. It really helps generate that impact I want my artwork to have, with it already featuring bold, colourful characters. Scaling it up to be larger than life just puts the cherry on top in giving it the visual impact it needs.

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