Elephant design inspired by son’s love of wildlife

With just one month until Herd In The City stomps into the city, one local artist shares the inspiration behind his design – his son’s love of wildlife.

James Higgs, 36, from Southend-on-Sea, is one of the many artists that have been decorating a herd of 46 elephant sculptures which will be gracing the city’s streets this summer.

The sculptures will be part of an unforgettable art trail, Herd In The City, taking place from 14 July to 4 September in Southend-on-Sea, Leigh-on-Sea and Shoeburyness.

The concept behind the elephant’s design is to highlight the wildlife found in and around the Thames Estuary, some of which might surprise some people.

James says, “Due to the style of my art, I’m quite conscious that it can appeal to a younger audience. I wanted to take the opportunity to have fun but also to add a sense of education to it.

“I think the younger generation coming through have a brilliant environmental awareness already – if I can further this for them at a grassroots level, then I’ll be happy.”

James is the Head of Creative at local digital marketing agency Revive Digital, one of the sponsors for Herd In The City.

Talking about the reason he wanted to take part in the trail, James says, “I had previously walked the ‘Hares about Town’ trail in 2021 and thought it was a hugely positive, family-orientated event that shone Southend in a really good light.

“On top of that, it’s a great opportunity and stage for artists, new and established, to showcase to a wide audience that might not usually come across the work of these artists.”

The sculpture was decorated using various techniques and materials, including spray paint for the base coat, chalk pencils to sketch out the individual animals, and acrylic paints to build up the colour layers before finishing the details with Posca Pens.

James tends to create a lot of digital art, so this project was a very different experience from what he is used to.

He says, “All of a sudden, I didn’t have the luxury of an ‘undo’ key. I was forced out of my comfort zone and am so grateful for it. It’s given me the bug to start creating more tactile artwork again.”

The artist eagerly awaits the trail, especially seeing his son’s reaction to his elephant.

“I can’t wait to walk the whole trail with my family. My little boy, Felix, is really passionate about wildlife and helped paint some of the creatures on the elephant, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he reacts to the finished article.

“I’ve had a sneaky peek at some of the other elephants, and the standard is really high. It will be great seeing them in the Southend sunshine!”

At the end of the trail, the elephants will be sold at auction to raise vital funds for the free, specialist care and support Havens Hospices provides for people of all ages and their families living with incurable conditions. The charity’s last art trail in 2021, ‘Hares About Town,’ raised more than £447,000 for local hospice care.

Keep up to date with the herd at www.herdinthe.city or follow @herdinthe.city on Instagram and @herdinthecity on Twitter and Facebook.

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Man leaning down writing with a posca pen on an elephant sculpture