Cardiff based James L Lewis’ work has been featured in publications including Creative Review, The Guardian and Good Type. Pretty impressive considering the 21 year old only graduated last month – oh and he’s also managed to rack up over 75k followers on Instagram.
We’ve been working alongside the young lettering artist to create a limited edition screen print for social arts initiative Hopeful Traders. It will be one of the many rewards available from their Kickstarter campaign which launches this Friday so we had a chat with James about his journey and all things letter forms.
When did your obsession with type start?
My typographic journey began around 6 years ago when I was just 15 years old. A true digital native, my creative outlet was: photo manipulation art, and designing graphics & short introduction animations for my fellow YouTube creatives, most of which centred around conveying ideas through typography.
And who would you cite as your main influences?
My passion for typography really took off a year later when I decided to better my handwriting. I set out to learn copperplate calligraphy, inspired by master Calligraphers like Jake Weidmen ( http://instagram.com/
Throughout my journey I’ve had many different visual influences. Recently I’ve really admired the impact & depth achieved in traditional sign painting and I’ve been combining this perception defying style with my earlier roots in calligraphy and type design to create my typographic artworks.
You recently graduated and have managed to go straight into a freelance career. Is there any advice you would give to other graduates looking to work for themselves in the creative industry?
My best single piece of advice for those looking to work for themselves would be: ‘create what you wish to see more of in the world.’ By following this motto I found the right opportunities and people will align with you and eventually pay you to do what you love!
I would however be deceiving you if I said working for yourself is easy. Whilst a student I spent many hours creating for free, many hours chasing those who had actually hired me for payments, and many (many) hours sat at a desk, in my bedroom, trying to make a name for myself. Why? I knew that the uphill struggle was always getting easier so I say to anyone in a similar position just keep climbing.
You’ve worked on some really exciting projects and commissions, are there any that stand out for you?
I recently worked with DJ Vice ( www.instagram.com/djvice ) on a campaign which was really special to me as I was hired not only to paint a piece of artwork, but to produce a video about the creation process also. Creating videos about my art is something I’ve only recently started doing. I’ve been told the process videos have inspired others to get creative which really resonates with me as I believe creativity is key to personal growth and happiness.
This project is a great example of what I mentioned previously that if you do what you love people will see your passion and hire you to create for them.
What appealed to you about the Hopeful Traders collaboration?
I truly feel blessed for all opportunities that come my way where I get to help those who are less fortunate through my artwork. The Hopeful Traders collaboration isn’t simply another one of these opportunities, it resonates with me on a deeper level as I was once homeless myself. Following the loss of my parents at a young age, and a series of unforeseen events I found myself living off sofas and broken camp beds, with no fixed address, all whilst still being in school. If it wasn’t for homeless charities like Llamau, who supported me through a troubling time, I certainly would not be the man I am today. I genuinely feel honoured that I can give back through this project and many more in the future.
What can we expect from you in the next few months, anything exciting on the horizon?
I’m always coming up with new ideas for artworks so I’m excited to be a part of several collaborative exhibitions over the next few months. One exhibition I am really looking forward to is the ‘go font yourself’ exhibition at the Flat Blak gallery (https://www.flatblakgallery.
I’m thrilled to be sharing more about my personal story at a creative mornings talk in Cardiff ( www.creativemornings.com/cities/
Finally, I will be traveling and teaching a few workshops based around my 3D lettering style towards the end of this year. Sharing knowledge is important to me and I’m really looking forward to meeting some likeminded people who will benefit from my skill set.
Finally if you had to describe your style in 5 words what would they be?
INSPIRING MESSAGES WITH AWESOME LETTERS
Here’s a video of James creating the We Are Hopeful artwork which will go on to become a limited edition screen print Kickstarter reward. To be the first to get your hands on the print come down to the launch party this Friday 28th July: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/hopeful-traders-kickstarter-launch-pop-up-shop-tickets-35728179948