“I always thought Photoshop was a glorified Microsoft Paint – how I was so wrong,” says James Lacey, a Cardiff-raised illustrator and designer now based in South East London. Admittedly, this was around three years ago while he was working as a mechanic for Range Rover, before his friend – who was studying fashion – needed some assistance with her deadlines. Lending a helping hand with illustrative and lineup drawings, this sparked something in James that meant he would “rush home from work ready to scribble away at ideas” that had formulated in his head all day. “It started to become quite obvious that my love for working on cars was starting to fade, as all I wanted to do was go home and draw.”
Following this realisation, James would sneak off to his friend’s university to “brush up on skills off other students,” he tell It’s Nice That. Of course, learning the ropes of Photoshop and Illustrator along the way – “I really had no idea what these programmes were,” he confesses. Shortly after this, he began to digitalise his designs and mock them up on the screen, and like magpies drawn to something shiny (and beautiful), two close friends approached him to brand their local club night – and that’s where it all began.
Working primarily in music, James designs posters and record sleeves a-plenty in guise of his studio name Pointless Illustration. This niche is formed from an adoration with dance music, and the fact that he used to spend hours in local record stores rummaging through old boxes for 50p records, “hoping to find a box of bangers somewhere”. Although mostly finding ABBA, music was his ignition and a huge part of his life growing up; turning this passion into a career is something that he treasures deeply. “I’m pretty lucky in that sense, as I get to work with some of my favourite artists, and seeing my artwork spin around a record while I’m giving it a good shredding always brings a smile to my face.”
One of James’ most cherished projects, is a poster designed for Rhythm Section, created for an event with DJ’s Pablo Valentino and Bradley Zero last month. James recalls a loose brief from Bradley that went something like this: a “character that kind-of resembles Pablo and NYC pizza.” James continues, “I like it when work has a bit of comedic value and I try to have a bit of a giggle when designing – I’d say this poster shows that with the hand gesture and ‘Pablo’s’.” Additionally, James tends to draw his aesthetics from a place of memory, picking out the small details and colours before searching for any hard inspirations. “There’s always something individual to a memory that you hold onto; my memory of a certain pizza box might be completely different to somebody else’s. The design will reflect this.” Thus, the three elements that came from this process were: “glyphs on a playful type, red and green, and a chequered pattern”.
As with many illustrators-cum-designers, James grew up on 90s and 2000s skateboarding. His character work at the early stages of his career was heavily inspired around this aesthetic, combined with an infatuation with old comics and “anything rave and dance”. Plus “cartoons, cartoons and more cartoons” – “I have fond memories of absolutely creasing at cartoons with my sister.”
Pulling these inspirations into the present, James now runs a clothing brand named Handy Supply Co – a brand based around dance music and skateboarding. Launching his new collection later this month, it will see a collaborative t-shirt series with brands such as Dixon Avenue Basement James, Wolf Music, Dancing People (XOA), Cardiff skateboard club, Field Manoeuvres and Yungruzt, plus designers such as Tom Noon, Ben Arfur, Jasper Golding and Callum Jeanes. Looking to the future, next up is a project for Honey Dijon and some plans to work with more clothing companies and like-minded creatives – we can’t wait to see what comes next!