Illustrator Luci Pina’s work follows a circular process in its creation, often influenced by her own thoughts, earlier illustrations or simply her point of view. Although literally just graduating from Leeds Arts University, over the last year her "tone of voice as an image maker has really come together,” Luci tells It’s Nice That. Settling on an approach which centres her personal narrative, her illustrative work can often be a visual response to self-written text and poetry. If not, in-depth research will be carried out to lead the work, “usually in response to elements of black culture, and as a result, it's always made with a conscious and loving consideration for the politics of representation,” Luci tells us.
This research process is also unique to Luci, developed over time and resulting in the aesthetics of her work tending “to be a collation of different bits I’ve seen and read,” she says. Drawing, too, is part of this research with Luci tending to “reference stuff from video stills, documentaries and films; extracting characters, type and quotes from the things I’m consuming about whatever subject it is I am exploring,” she continues. Most recently, in her final year at university, Luci’s focus was a larger project looking into “hip-hop albums spanning from the 90s to the early 2000s” – and a perfect example of her research-led illustrative approach in action.
Beginning the process by starting a research book to collate her sources, Luci would pull in reference points and relevant quotes, allowing her to “pick up and evolve into drawing from those references and using that wealth of material to make work,” she explains. From this approach, a fluid quality is most prominent in Luci’s overall practice. A viewer is almost able to scan through her thought process, creating their own connections or resonating with particular elements they recognise or relate to. One of our very own favourite qualities of her work is the personality in which she’s able to communicate via characters, an approach she attributes to being “a natural translation of drawing from reference!”
This fluid quality of layering materials or references is also a reflection of the pace at which Luci approaches work, “which tends to be quite energetic and responsive,” she tells us. Over time, “I’ve become quite comfortable with making ugly drawings,” as she puts it, feeling no pressure but to draw “without much restriction so that whatever it is I’m making is an authentic response to what I’m referencing”. Afterwards, the illustrator will have a wide range of references to work from. Spanning drawing, type and text, these then develop into a final piece, collaged from different elements she feels are successful. “It’s interesting to think about because in a way, my process has a lot of connections with hip-hop and sampling itself – in the way that it’s all about consuming and looking at different things to then extract and put together. I feel like that’s quite a sweet parallel.”
Already researching and pulling from a wide pool of references to inform her work, Luci also tries to limit how much she looks at other people’s visual output. That said, since growing her practice “there have been a few staples over the years that I always seem to go back to,” she says. One is Brandon Stanciell’s photography and video work – “I think he does an amazing job at documenting blackness in all its multitudes, and his practice overall does a lot to redefine what that can mean, especially for black men,” she points out. Elsewhere it’s the continued output of Dev Hynes, who’s music videos she describes as insane for his “special tone of voice, with beautiful dreamy and ethereal qualities that I always go back to when I need inspiration”. When it comes to illustration she also notes the work of Brianne Rose Brooks, “for its candid nature and authenticity,” similarly working with text and image as Luci does.
Having only just completed her studies at Leeds, there’s plenty of Luci’s work to dive into and get to know. Most recent is a looping video accompanying a mixtape to reflect the current political climate, featuring an audio extract from the documentary Black is… Black ain’t, an exploration of African American identity by Marlon Riggs in 1994. Her piece references “images mainly from the Black Panther Movement in my drawings; sort of in attempts to reiterate the beauty and power that lives within all of us who are black,” she explains. “My work is always subtly political, but it was really sweet and healing do something a bit louder in that sense.”
With plenty more “research-based projects and work in response to poetry stuff coming,” there’s lots to expect and look forward too when it comes to Luci’s upcoming creative output. In our eyes, her work is thoughtful and intelligent – it is this considered approach and creative talent that our industry should be paying close attention to.
GalleryAll images by Luci Pina
Luci Pina: Nas type and notes
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.