Samuel Lucas, Illustrator / Graphic Designer Interview

Interview with Samuel Lucas, Illustrator / Graphic Designer. |  by Sebastião Belfort Cerqueira

Samuel Lucas is a very busy graphic designer, but a happy one. Which makes talking to him a freaking pleasure . He took a little time to tell us his story and it’s basically the story of a dude who got to become involved in the work of some of his heroes. How do you beat that?

I know you basically do freelance stuff, but I’ve learned that now you're piling up some official jobs on top of that?

I know what you’re talking about but, well, to tell you the truth everything is pretty much freelance. Even with Thousand Islands Records [Canadian label], where I’m an art director, it’s still freelance, they pay me by the project. But it’s my choice. I worked briefly in an advertising agency but it just wasn’t my thing. No freedom, no artistic freedom. With Vazva, the spanish clothing brand, it’s the same type of arrangement. At one time, before the corona panic, I was doing four different collections or drops a year for them. I knew that throughout the year I’d be working for them during certain periods, which is cool for a freelancer, because it helped me fit the rest of my work around those dates. With the stuff I’m doing for Cruzade Skateboards it’s pretty similar.

Speaking of Cruzade, it’s funny because those graphics caught my eye recently and I had no idea who was doing them. They sort of reminded me of some Creature graphics but maybe a little more cartoonish.

Yeah, I’d been following their stuff pretty much since they started because they were working with a Spanish artist I thought was really good. I had thought more than once that I’d like to be able to work with them sometime and then one day they just sent me an email. We hit it off really quickly and got to work. But right now, man, the skateboard market is pretty insane. I just finished a collection for Cruzade in late April that’ll only be coming out in 2022. They don’t have enough raw material, enough wood to keep up with the demand.

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Yeah, I’d heard similar stories. But going back, I’d like to ask you how you started. Were you always drawing a lot, was there any particular gig that made you realize that you could do illustration for a living?

Well, I’d say I started when I was in high school, around 2009. We had this website for promoting punk shows and that’s when I began paying more attention to the bands I was listening to, learning about them and I remember noticing the Vans Warped Tour posters, how they looked. Then at about the same time I got into my school’s students’ union and there I was involved in actually organizing concerts. The first one we did was a Fonzie [Portuguese skate punk band] show. We had to draw a poster and there was no one else so I just thought I should give it a try. I still remember, the whole poster was done on Paint. But it must’ve worked, because just through word of mouth I started getting requests to design posters and other stuff for other Portuguese punk bands.

Eventually I won this international contest to design a merchandising line for Etnies. The prize was simply them going through with it, like actually producing and distributing the line like they do all their product. That gave me quite a bit of visibility. And I used it to open some doors. I’d get in contact with bands and be like “hey, I did this, what do you say?” From 2010 to 2014, while I was in college, all the money I made I could just spend on partying and going out. After college, and especially after having worked with big names like NOFX, The Casualties or No Fun at All, I thought maybe I should hold on to this more seriously, because it was what I enjoyed doing and I had been doing fine so far.

Your style definitely makes me think of a lot of 90s punk albums, and 80s skate graphics, Jim Phillips comes to mind... were you looking at the work of any particular artists or was it more a sort of vague influence from a whole era?

No, you’re right there. Jim Phillips was for sure someone I paid a lot of attention to. Him and his son Jimbo were both probably my main inspirations. There were also some other guys I really liked, like Sean Cliver, Brandon Heart... then more on the punk music side Horsebites (Richard Minino), Dan Mumford, Godmachine... I mean they’re all different but it’s also useful to be able to adapt a little bit according to each client’s needs.

I was looking at your stuff and thinking, this really is illustration. It’s not a drawing or painting that someone puts on a record cover or a skate deck, it illustrates an idea or tells a little story. How do you get to that? For example, for a record, do you talk with the band, do you get to listen to the album?

Yeah, usually they’ll send me the album while it’s still in production. Most of the times I’m either in contact with someone in the band or with a manager or someone like that and they’ll give me a starting point, a basic idea that I’ll explore. It’s usually a simple process. After the initial briefing we send the design back and forth a couple of times until it’s done. For example, if there’s an album that’s going to have a big booklet with all the lyrics and a lot of pages, I try to imagine a graphic solution that’ll run through all of it, something that’ll make sense from the cover, through the booklet and the cd itself, to the back cover. Right now Thousand Islands is preparing a compilation album. And “thousand island” is the name of a well-known type of salad dressing. So we’re redoing the label’s logo to look like a bottle of salad dressing and I was telling them that the compilation will have to look like a restaurant menu, with different types of dressings and stuff like that. Particularly in the case of punk bands, where most of the times they have something they really want to get across, you can take that conceptual side and explore it to the limit.

One example that I’m really happy with is the work I did for [Portuguese punk band] Artigo 21. Their album was going to be called Ilusão [Illusion] so I thought we should find a way to reveal every image as an illusion. The cover shows someone sitting at home, in a nice house, watching this smiling politician with a background of green trees on their smartphone. Then you open the cover and everything turns out to be complete shit. The dude is handcuffed to his phone, the trees behind the politician were a set, there’s a guy starving beside him, factories everywhere... Having the little cutout really increased the cover’s production costs, which for a Portuguese band, in the Portuguese market, could well mean that they’d have a hard time making their money back. But I’m glad they thought it was worth it anyhow.

That’s cool. It already says a little bit about your process but I wanted to ask you about a particular project you did. I really liked the board design you made for Trucks and Fins, the one with the UFOs, I think you nailed the site’s spirit. I wanted to ask you: how did you come to that one?

I’m also very happy with how that one turned out. The process, I mean, Haroun [T&F co-founder] just told me “you know what the site is about and you know our work so just do whatever you think is better” and, well, it was like you said, I just had to think about what the website was. I knew it had to be something pretty futuristic and then I thought it would be cool to refer to the website’s international scope, so I had the idea of including all these famous monuments. So yeah, I thought of these UFOs coming to steal all the skateparks and taking them to another dimension, which would be the dimension where Trucks and Fins is. When we do a new version we can continue the story and have the aliens skating the parks they stole on Mars or somewhere like that. Also, the central ship, which is taking a skatepark with a skater in it, is taking the Venice Beach skatepark, which for us is just as iconic as all the monuments that are lying about broken at the bottom.

It’s a great idea and a great graphic, I hope they’ll go into production some time soon. Before we go, are you working on anything cool right now, is there anything you’d like to announce?

There’s one thing that I’m really hyped on. Rastilho Records is doing a re-issue of Censurados Ao Vivo [classic Portuguese punk band live reunion album] and I’ll be doing the design for that. Also, I’m starting a collection for this American punk band that I’ve been a fan of for years. They’re called A Wilhelm Scream and they’ re huge in the States, and not just there of course. Their first t-shirts or posters were done by Jimbo Phillips and I was looking at them and thinking that I’d love to do something for those guys one day. Then about two months ago I got an email from their manager and I was ecstatic. I’m doing two designs for them.

That’s what I call a happy-ending. Thanks a lot, Samuel.

Check Trucks and Fins’ instagram for the chance of winning a Samuel Lucas custom-designed deck.

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