Looking at the scribbly but strong figures put on paper by James Spencer, a sense of frustration and discomfort creeps up. The British fashion illustrator—who also happens to be the muse of designer Charles Jeffrey and could recently be seen in Moschino’s fetishist A/W18 show—always works from a self-described “sense of struggle”, resulting in black-and-white, fine-lined (mainly male) nudes that stand out for their seeming simplicity. Turning his feelings into drawings for as long as he can remember, the rising talent implements a bit of himself, as well as the people he loves and admires, into each of his beautiful works.
Hi James! As it’s the theme of our latest issue, how would you define “Pain”?
I definitely say my work expresses feelings of pain. If you look at my figures, their expressions and poses could evoke a sense of struggle, frustration… pain?
Would you say that pain, in whatever shape it comes, has somehow mediated some of your professional achievements? How about the personal ones?
I’d say most of my work comes from a sense of struggle, if you class that as pain.
When and how did you become aware of your talent? And what is it that you cherish the most about doing illustrations?
I don’t know if “talent” is really the word to describe it. I just draw because I have to. It’s something I’ve always done for as long as I can remember. I guess you could say I cherish that I can sometimes make money from something I do enjoy.
Is there any recurrent theme that you often fall back on in your work?
Generally male nudes. I’m a gay man, what can I say?
What or who has informed your personal style?
A plethora of things. Normally they are male, but not always. I guess there’s always a little bit of me in them all. Sometimes it’s people I love, people I’m attracted to. It all comes from my subconscious mind.
As a rising talent, what is it you fear? And how do you overcome your fears?
“A rising talent”—that’s what I fear. That I’ll never rise.
Currently, where are you physically, mentally, and emotionally? And where do you expect to be in the future?
I once heard Jarvis Cocker say in an interview: “just do things that move you”. So, I guess I’ll do that in the future.