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Luci Pina: meet the illustrator inspired by archival footage and hip-hop



With a lo-fi and sentimental approach to image-making, Luci Pina takes inspiration from archival footage to create an illustrative patchwork. Sifting through seminal music videos and forgotten documentaries to influence her work, Luci credits finding her signature style to hip hop. Much like how the genre borrows samples, Luci takes snippets of inspiration from resources to build her final pieces. “I sort of work in the same way a producer would with samples,” muses Lucy. “I take different bits from wherever to make something new.”


Alongside personal narratives, Luci enjoys making research-led responses to Black culture with a loving consideration for politics and representation. Her work affectionately portrays vibrant scenes of cultural moments past; from the streets of Leeds’ Chapletown Carnival to the studios of iconic rappers such as Mos Def and MF DOOM. Her work often evolves into fake flyers that can be imagined pasted on underpasses in New York, their pastel tones and graffiti-inspired typefaces magnetising you towards the party.


With a signature style so recognisable and authentically Luci Pina, it’s easy to think that this evolution of style came naturally to the Leeds Arts University graduate. But, with refreshing honesty, Luci admits that she “felt lost” when searching for what she wanted her signature style to be. Her final university project was looming, and everything Luci was working on “felt forced”. Spending her time instead listening to music and watching the Netflix docu-series Hip Hop Evolution, Luci decided it was time to try something different to anything she’d ever done before. She embarked on a research-based project on hip hop and played with the different visuals that she encountered in documentaries and music videos.


“Watching Hip Hop Evolution, I realised the history of hip hop and how connected to Blackness it is. It made me feel inherently connected to it.” reflects Luci. “I always pinpoint how my work started looking now with that final year project at uni. That project to me was very special, it is my baby. I don’t think I’ll ever prefer another project more than that”.

This research-led approach has informed Luci’s work to date; starting with a collation of sketches pulled from various sources, and ending with a layered response in which quotes, textures and iconography dance together on the page. Her fluid figures are at home within the piece; the canvas a refuge in which they’re free to roam the streets Luci sets in front of them, with the beats of a distant party pulsing through their neighbourhood. “Hip hop has such a wide history and there’s a lot of music to look at, as well as its influence,” Luci explains when asked about her process. “I started with looking into my favourite albums of the ‘90s and early 2000s. I focussed on each album and the visual language around it. Music videos, interviews, even seeing where they got different samples from in each song, and then I drew from whatever I found.”


Freshly graduated and with this seminal hip hop project under her belt, Luci was featured in It’s Nice That and commissioned by SCRT (Stay Creative Co.), both opportunities solidifying that she had found her ‘signature style’. Coasting away from hip hop and feeling inspired after seeing her designs on SCRT garments, Luci decided to make some reggae trousers: “After I did my hip hop project, I craved some new content. I asked myself: What other genres do I like? What other music am I into? I settled on reggae after watching a documentary about the rise of reggae in Britain. I was inspired by the bands that brought up politics in their music but in a reggae way all about unity and love.”


Luci sewed and embellished the trousers with her pastel illustrations inspired by her investigation of reggae and dub culture: “I wanted to tear up a little at having a physical object that is such a beautiful celebration of Black UK reggae”.


The trousers caught the eye of good friend John Christou of Habitual Pleasures (“Who’s lovely and amazing and I love him”), and together the two embarked on a similar project: a skirt that explored queerness and music. Originally considering making another pair of trousers, Luci and John instead settled on making something that defied gender binaries and celebrated the freedom of queer expression: “[John has] been thinking a lot about his queerness and wanting to explore it. We settled on making a skirt to tap into femininity. It’s inspired by the TV series Pose and the ball scene of the 1980s.”


photos: Aiden Wyldbore


Until recently, Luci’s studio was her bedroom and coffee table, and she found herself craving a studio space where she “could work big, and not small anymore.” After a brief stint in a shared studio with artist and best mate Rosie Wainwright (@softandprickly), she was offered a space at creative hub East Street Arts. “Mine and Rosie’s place was our mini creative community,” Luci reflects with a smile. “But it was quite isolating”. Now, you can find Luci lovingly bowed over her work in her East Street studio: resources, sketches and initial concepts pinned all over the walls; the tinny beats of Lord Apex, MIKE and Mac Homme are heard through Luci’s headphones.

Driven by the urge to engage with and celebrate Black culture, Luci creates personal and nostalgic pieces despite not ever being shoulder-to-shoulder with most of her subjects. It’s her intensive research and intelligent dissection of resources that make her work so intuitive and sentimental. With more personal projects in the pipeline, looking forward to a year of collaboration.

Meg Firth

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