You know those weekends when you’re gathering wood for the fire, sweeping the garden of leaves, picking up succulents at the local plant shop, and being turned into a butterfly by a magical, flute-playing elf. No? Not ringing any bells? Then allow me to introduce you to Florian, the benevolent boy-witch created by British illustrator Adam Higton, and protagonist in the first monograph from French publisher Atelier Raphaël Garnier. In Florian’s world, extraordinary events are commonplace, but he somehow takes them all in his stride.
Florian was born in October 2014 for Higton’s first show with Hamburg’s Human Empire design and illustration agency. “I did some line drawings colored on the computer,” he says, “and one of them was a boy’s head being reflected in water. I realized I wanted to build on that and develop him as a character. The name Florian is from a member of a Krautrock group called Popol Vuh, and I’ve always liked the name. It works well with the subject matter, too.”
The inspiration for Florian owes a particular debt to Charles Schultz’s Peanuts comics, whose awkward, yet often surprisingly mature child stars informed Higton’s own character design. “I’m a really big fan of Peanuts,” says Higton. “It’s funny, because in Peanuts they’re all children, but what they say is quite grown up. They’re almost like little adults. I think Florian is the same kind of thing. He could be a little man or boy, but I haven’t decided which one he is yet—he’s both.”
Unlike Snoopy and Charlie Brown, Florian doesn’t chat. Higton’s wordless narratives allow each reader to take something unique from the story, and imbue little Florian with a nature of their own. I like to think he’s an innocent adventurer, but Higton assures me he’s mischievous, too. “He’s playful I think, but he doesn’t talk. A couple of years ago I did a comic, and I started giving everyone speech bubbles, but I’m not a good writer, and I’m not all that good with words. They always seemed a little bit stupid when I made them speak.”
Offset litho printed in black and white, Florian’s design is pared-back but carefully considered, allowing the simple yet skillful monochrome drawings to shine. In lieu of color, depth is created by cross-hatching overlaid with halftone dots, creating a primitive chiaroscuro that adds drama to each scene. The whole package is brought together with a mottled yellow gatefold cover, finished with a unique detachable print to take off and keep. If these kinds of details are to be the hallmarks of Garnier’s new publishing venture, then there’s much to be excited about for upcoming releases.
As for Florian, Higton’s not yet sure where his next adventure will lead. “I’m thinking in the next installment he’ll learn a new spell, or skill, something like that.”