No one is crying William D. Higginson a river, least of all the man himself. Tears of joy, though? Now we’re talking. Since the age of 30, the painter of surrealistic mind benders has diligently crossed some rather lofty creative goals off the ol’ to-do list. Raising the roof while popping champagne corks seems far more fitting. We’ll just leave the mournful, B-flat minor violin solo for the exact moment when our aristocratic narrator Balthazar chimes in. Sh-sh-shhhh, everybody! Okay, B-zar…hit it!
Of course, William D. Higginson’s brush with mortality – first as a young boy, and then once again as a teenager – could have easily resulted in a verry verrrrry different, colossally bummersville article.
Yep. You heard Beautiful Bizarre’s Jeeves-meets-slacker voice-over correctly.
William D. Higginson was just eleven years old when his failing liver was intent on throwing a massive wrench into the works. The startlingly ephemeral nature of life once again clobbered him over the head when he was diagnosed with leukemia just a few years later. Ugh, whaaa? It really seems as though the hand of fate has a doctorate in sadism.
Given the uncertain future that William D. Higginson faced in his younger years, dissolving into a puddle of pity-goo – or even leveraging his past challenges for financial gain – would have been perfectly understandable. The Australia-born, Canada-based artist chooses, instead, to draw strength from his dark yesterdays. Those indelible memories serve as the unrelenting motivation for his dream-into-action life decisions.
There actually was a sacred period in time when William D. Higginson experienced the lighthearted whimsy of unencumbered youth. The oil painter, who has “always been a great appreciator of anything visual”, was just three years of age when he announced to his ever-supportive parents that he wanted to become an artist.
The Aussie creative was the only person in his family, aside from one uncle he never met, who demonstrated artistic interest as well as aptitude. The power to conjure worlds that were utterly impossible in real life proved to be a very seductive elixir. During many of the more rattling health twists and turns that he endured as a boy, art became a coping mechanism as well as a great escape.
William was intrigued by all mediums. Diverse forms of visual inspiration – from Salvador Dalí, mother nature, and Japanese graphic novels to particularly encouraging mentors – appealed to him. He developed his skills to such a degree that he was bestowed with several high school art awards. One might think that a formal education in the arts was all but guaranteed.
Not all stories follow linear plotlines, though. William acknowledges that carefree pursuits were as seductive to him in his earlier years as a flickering flame is to a moth. Ultimately, the only thing that stood between him and the gleaming gates of art school was the necessary academic requirements.
William reacted to the unwelcome news of his dashed art school hopes as any impetuous, broken-hearted young person might. He joined the military. Oh nooo… say it ain’t so! Creative people and the service are typically ill-suited, and not surprisingly, his imagination took quite a hit. “It sure as hell knocked any creativity out of me for a good long while”, he reflects.
His re-entry into civilian life wasn’t as fulfilling as what one with creative inclinations might hope and dream for. It was really William’s time as a hospital warden, though, that left him especially unsettled. “Being surrounded by unhealthy and dying people” isn’t exactly uplifting, especially when you’ve personally walked the walk.
If you fine-tune your powers of observation, though, a silver lining can be found in almost every experience. As emotionally draining as his work environment was, it ended up being pivotal for William. He ruminated on the things that matter most in this fleeting life, including the transformative power of creative expression. Recognizing “how special life is and how important it is to fill it with the things that you truly love,” he decided that he had to make some drastic changes.
William believes that one way or another, he “would have inevitably found a path back to art”. Nothing, however, makes a person fast-track their aspirations quite as much as the menacing reminder that the pale horse has twice tried to rip the door off your earthly hinges.
William found himself at an “all or nothing” crossroads. He officially bid Australia hooroo in favor of a clean Canadian slate. His international relocation, he reasoned, would eliminate all the comfortable crutches that were available to him. Instead, he would draw exclusively upon the “ridiculous amount of determination” that defines him as a person. The very same self-propelled drive that would help him to make his mark in the art world.
Why would anyone who has stared death directly in the creepy ocular sockets intentionally complicate their journey? Generally, those who have given the dark lord a double finger salute (and lived to tell the tale) don’t embrace an easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy approach…to anything. They’ve already been to hell and back. As such, a radical inner shift occurs. Holy grail-caliber life plans seem far less like lofty notions and a lot more like come hell or high water necessities.
This brings us to the many art-repreneurial pursuits that have occupied William D. Higginson since he moved to Vancouver, Canada. Throughout the past twelve years, the Aussie creative has done just about everything that might give an art hound genuine fulfillment. He developed a software program for artists, spent several years as a gallerist, and launched a live wedding painting company. At the same time, he was (and continues) to brainstorm and coordinate art community events.
An equally fulfilling part of William’s life has been his aggressive pursuit of surrealistic excellence. Throughout his Vancouver residency, his carefully strategized life decisions have worked well for him. He continues to produce polished paintings that are aesthetically consistent by exercising the same diligent thought process. In other words, William doesn’t ‘wing’ his works of art. He prefers channeling a great deal of energy into the conception and execution of his artistic concepts.
The painter of weighty contemplations first converts his raw ideas into physical models using wooden scraps! His three-dimensional ‘art sets’ also benefit from “a lot of cardboard, tape, wire, and string to hold everything together”. This step ensures that his canvas compositions are visually well balanced.
William then sketches his carefully conceived ideas directly on canvas before ultimately painting them. The artist has created a mindboggling array of continuing series. Remarkably, every one of them bears the William D. Higginson ‘look’. Perhaps this suggests that there is far more ‘method’ to his oil paintings than ‘madness’.
For visual stories to be effective and truly resonate with the beholder, they really should be rooted in what we know. Mortality, though, is a subject that makes many of us run for the hills. William’s contemplative, memento mori-steeped imagery offers a bit of a twist. It depicts “the journey to death and then away from it”. He shares his vision for the evolution of his concept. “Over the years, the skull will slowly come back to life,” until it ultimately morphs “into the most beautiful bunch of flowers.”
Many of us have heard people proclaim that “each day is a gift”. How many of them are intimately familiar with the fragility of our corporeal form, though? William D. Higginson stresses that “even with 500 years on this planet, I couldn’t even come close to fulfilling my goals for this life.”
William’s acute awareness of the precious nature of time – coupled with his unstoppable drive – has compelled him to manifest so many of his creative aspirations. We wouldn’t be surprised, though, if he figured out a way to condense 500 years of bucket list dreams into a shiny new to-do list. In fact, he’s probably chipping away at it already. As the proverb says, where there’s Will (iam D. Higginson), there is most definitely a way.