“I always really valued humour.” Hicks says cheerfully. “I always thought the coolest compliment was to be called funny by someone.”
It’s 9:30 AM in New York City when I meet Angelica.“Everything has been growing super organically, to the point where I never thought I would be doing this right now. I thought this was something that gave me some enjoyment whilst writing my thesis and working on my exams. I never thought I would be able to graduate university (she graduated in May) and:
A. obtain an artist visa to go to New York City and
B. be able to freelance straight out of University. This is kind of super incredible.”
It seems that, despite her obvious success, Angelica is still trying to get her head around what is happening to her.
“I went to school in England, and in England, if you can’t copy a Caravaggio you are therefore deemed as untalented. I walked out of the art department when I was 15 thinking I would never be going back in there. I found it very frustrating” She explains “but I continued drawing; I always liked doodling and I always had ‘my style’ as they call it now.”
“I always had to draw my grandparents and my parents for Christmas. I remember them telling me: ‘Don’t buy us something, make us something.’ But it’s thanks to my sister’s 18th birthday party that I really started drawing again. I didn’t have a present for her and I also had no money. I wrote her a cautionary tale inspired by Hilaire Belloc’s book. It was ironic and funny. That was a year and a month ago.”
It’s no secret that Miss Hicks comes from an impressive creative lineage. (Her father, Ashley Hicks, is an architect, interior designer and the second cousin of Charles, Prince of Wales. Her mother, Allegra Hicks, is a fashion designer and personality in London.)
Semaine: How much have your family influenced your work or your aesthetics?
Angelica: “I was always told: “Be more observant child!”. That’s the coolest thing my parents could have done; because they encouraged me to look up.
My grandfather on my English side was an interior designer called David Hicks. He was very extremely opinionated.
My kind of only real memory of him was him wanting to get rid of all the daffodils in his garden because they were ‘hideous’ and a complete eye sore. He was quite happy driving over them with the car and destroying that apparent vulgar yellow - yet it was a colour he actually used before. He was funny because he was just such a character and I think that actually maybe feeds into my exaggeration of characters. Like the characters you can see in the animation: They are exaggerations of the world today. They have components of everyone; if you merge the Blonde Salad and Man Repeller and Brian boy you do end up with a ridiculous character.
What’s really cool is that I guess I found my own way. If I were doing interiors it would be harder; I would maybe get the kind of “Oh sweet - she is doing interiors too”.
Semaine: Did you always know what you wanted to do?
Angelica: “When I was 15 and I rejected art, I was sort of convinced I was going to be a banker. I had had enough of this creative BS and people expecting me to do something creative. I mean what did they know? I told myself I was going to do finance. I did economics for International Business.
Still, when I went to University I did Art History but thinking I could maybe do a conversion course and become a lawyer. Anyway here I am, with an artist visa, in New York City.” she laughs.
Semaine: How would you define your style?
Angelica: “I see it as a pun complimented by a drawing. I don’t know if it’s the right way to define it but it’s almost as though the drawing is secondary to the text. I try to look at fashion and popular culture in a very simple way. My posts about Anna Wintour as 'Band-Anna', 'Alexander Fang' or “Derek Blas-Burger”, are so simple and easy but you never think about that. I guess I take things very literally. I play on the literal meaning of the words."
Semaine: How do ideas come to you?
Angelica: “Ideas come in different ways, I don’t actively search for ideas. I don’t force myself. I never really find forced jokes that funny I do walk around a lot. You know…advertisements: You don’t actively look at them but you take it in. The stream of popular culture and references that you are exposed to all day, everyday is humongous. You only have to feed into those ideas. I always keep a Moleskine in my bag and I can start doodling on the tube - I once drew in an airport terminal too - People get a little creeped out sometimes.”
Semaine: Why focus on Fashion?
Angelica: “During Fashion Week last February I noticed a niche in illustration. There were so many illustrators but none of them were really engaging with the comedic aspects of fashion. I had always been interested in fashion. Partly because of the code, partly because of the attitude. I think fashion is amazing in a kind of…I hope this is not going to sound pretentious...but in a sort of anthropological way. People love to say how stupid fashion is, and that pisses me off. I’m sure that fed into my decision to stick to fashion in my drawings.
There is something really nice also into taking down fashion from this ‘elevated’ status. People think 'Urgh, high fashion'. I want to make people feel high fashion accessible. I have friends that are boys, for example that are surprisingly into my illustrations, or I just bump into people and they tell me: 'You, I follow because it’s funny. Because I get it. Even if sometimes I don’t know who this designer you are talking about is, and I have no idea about fashion, I get the joke.'
I thought I had a precise demographic, that my audience was quite specific. And it’s not AT ALL the case. The spectrum is so wide, which is pretty cool. I really like that the dumbed-down way I show fashion and explore popular culture does appeal to everyone.”
Semaine: On Instagram fashion people also have a very strong aesthetic. Are people creating an online persona in a way?
“Yes I guess. People used to curate their Beebo or Myspace profiles to make it reflect their personalities and people do the same on Instagram. Eva Chen (@Evachen212) for example takes pictures of her feet in the same pose at the back of cars, and if I see a picture of feet at the back of a car, I’m like 'oh, that’s probably Eva Chen'. It’s going to sound super douchie…but in the same way you can recognise this is a Caravaggio with a chiaroscuro, you can just say this is an Eva Chen because her feet are up. You can just tell.” She laughs.
Semaine: I guess this inclusion is also explained by your medium: Instagram. What do you think about Instagram?
Angelica: “I didn’t have Linkedin, and Instagram allowed me to have all my work together, a kind of online portfolio, and people direct messaged me. That was the most incredible thing, people direct messaging me and asking for my email address and wondering if I wanted to do a collaboration.”
Semaine: Did you adapt your work to Instagram?
Angelica: “I did adapt my work a little. I do take into account that people scroll through - I do the same when I go to my home page. You want something snappy and grabby enough.
Initially I had all dialogues; they were proper pages but I realised that my mum had been screen-shotting them to zoom in and read the text. Only my mom is that nice and I thought who else would bother to do that and therefore made it snappier.”
Semaine: Has anybody ever gotten mad?
Angelica: "Someone once, and this is quite funny, got quite angry on Hubert de Givenchy’s behalf. They didn’t like my pun with ‘Uber de Givenchy’. Someone said “1st Time I say not funny as HDG is beyond your funny drawings @angelicahicks”. And I thought ‘Oh God. Have I gone too far?’ And then Hubert de Givenchy’s nephew commented 'I’ll make sure he sees it!' and his wife commented 'Genius'. So you know, I thought: 'phew. Maybe I didn’t go beyond.'
But I guess that shows how Instagram allows you to get things across to people you might have never come across. Generally people have understood the joke. My drawings are not mean. Mean is too easy. Growing up where and when I grew up and therefore being so aware of cyber bullying, why would you make a joke at someone’s expense when you could just make a joke with them?’
I think people in the fashion world are also interested in showing how accessible they are.
Famous people are more inclined to repost something with a pun because they are like “Look, I am not taking myself too seriously”. Look at Zoolander and Anna Wintour, they are the first ones strangely enough to make fun of themselves.”
Semaine: Do you get ‘likes’ anxiety?
Angelica: “Let’s be honest, everyone gets likes anxiety. But I am mostly intrigued when a drawing works really well. I would think ‘hmmm that’s weird. Why? What made people like that one and not another? I am sometimes surprised with the ones that perform well which might not be my own personal favourite.
But the thing I like the most is when people tag their friends on my drawings. They tag their friends and they are like “Oh this is so us last Saturday”. In a way when I tag my sister in a post by @fuckjerry or the @thefatjewish: 'ahah this is so mama'. I find it amazing that my drawings allow people to communicate and the fact that people can start a dialogue through a pun on fashion.”
Semaine: Do you stalk people on Instagram?
Angelica: “I completely stalk people on Instagram. The Kardashians for example. That’s my naughty little habit. I don’t actually follow them but I actively track. I think their profile is so much better viewed all in one go. Occasionally - maybe it’s a bit creepy and I shouldn’t say this - but I will have a look at my new followers’ profiles, to see the kind of people that follow me and sometimes it’s really surprising. They can be like 12-year old boys. I didn’t really think that was my demographic but you know…As I was telling you earlier, they find it quite funny too apparently!"
Semaine: You quoted Diana Vreeland in an interview “Fashion must be the most intoxicating release from the banality of the world.” Is she one of your main inspiration?
Angelica: “Definitely! I watched Funny Face when I was 5, and I was obsessed about the Editor-in-chief. 'Think pink! Everything must be Pink!'. She screams. Her character was based on Diana Vreeland even though they looked nothing alike. I then saw a picture of her and I was so intrigued by this extremely interesting woman who dresses so incredibly well with such a weird face - a kind of appealing strange face. Always wearing red lipstick and her impeccable hair. She is so hyperbolic in the sense that she exaggerates everything. In a way she is quite similar to the characters I create. She would be the most super hero-esque of my characters. She would have said in a more elaborate and chic way but “go big or go home.
It does really speak to me even though, you know I grew up between the country and London and I wear t-shirts and jeans going on walks and watching TV… Maybe I’m waiting for the Diana Vreeland in me to come out…” She laughs.
Semaine: Semaine is showcasing your first animation. What did you think about this change of format?
Angelica: “I am not used to working on an ongoing project and it has been quite nice to have this continuity and exploring characters in a deeper way. It is really cool to see them come alive.
I don’t know if you know but you have around seven frames per seconds. And I have done over 40 or 60 drawings! The animation team will send me a list of other drawings like, ‘we need this arm to be in this position’, because obviously it’s going to be moving and it’s so weird. But I am really excited.
Working with Sophie, the screenwriter has been great. We had same ideas when it came to the voices for examples. There are so many components in the making of an animation and I really liked the process.
I’m still so fresh and everything has been going so fast. I have just literally moved to New York. But I would also like to start making stuff. Maybe stationary?"
I finish this interview with a clearer idea of who Angelica Hicks is. An obvious passion for words and humour, armed with a sense of distance and freedom and un-spoiled by years of art school and technique perfecting. She has fun doing what she does and she doesn’t force anything. She is as funny, witty and smart, as you would expect her to be.
Her work was purely led by an instinct and a talent, and this succession of posts, which, exposed by this amazing global platform that is Instagram, made it possible to blossom.
She reinvented, in a way, the manner in which people consume illustrations and she is the product of all the good that exists in the new social media world. Would her have drawings remained a hobby had Instagram not exist, we can’t tell, but it’s a very hopeful message to all the creatives out there that feel frustrated with the educational system.
Social Media is not just a narcissistic machine that strokes our ego but also a place of discovery and an amazing tool to promote talent and creativity. Long live the posts, the re-posts, the likes, the comments that result in DM's and amazing collaborations.
At Semaine, we will be looking out for her stationary.
By Marie Winckler for Semaine