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In DIY DOC’S, we take a look at how illustrators, artists, and designers put their stamp on a Dr. Martens product. Painting, tattooing or de-constructing – we’re giving them the creative freedom to express themselves off of the canvas.

Meet Brighton-based Joe La-Placa. Having just created artwork for our new Reading store, we had to have him take part of our DIY DOC’S series too. Joe recreates fantastical imagery using dark notions that he describes as “the twisted truth”. His very distinctive style can be noticed immediately, with intricate details of odd characters contributing to the allure of his final outcome. Although dark, his illustrations still have themes of fun, imagination and humour. We caught up with Joe below…

Introduce yourself:
Hello I’m Joe La-Placa, a freelance illustrator/printmaker originally from Slough but now living & working by the sea in Brighton. When I’m not illustrating I work with young adults with disabilities. I really like adventures, yogurts & stories.

Who or what do you take inspiration from?
I take the most inspiration from the mundane, folklore, the human condition & nature. I find it interesting looking back at Medieval & Hindu art where the imagery is very crude and figurative. I draw influences from their animals & flowers, and I like to isolate my imagery in big open spaces capturing a certain feeling or story in an image which is often dark & strange.

Do you have an illustration or project you’re most proud of?
I got to be part of the whole process of my good pals making their debut album which was really interesting & super fun getting to go on tour and see people dig my work, it was a really humbling experience and I was super proud of myself & my friends. I’m currently in the process of working on a recipe book with my chum who owns his own vegan street food company ‘manjula’ so I’m very excited to be getting started on that. I just really enjoy doing fun things with fun people.

Talk us through your customised Dr. Martens, was it a challenge working on a pair of boots?
Working on the boots was very challenging… it’s certainly different from working on something flat. It was very much a stop and start process for me, as well as the many pens that died along the way. The most difficult part was trying not to smudge the drying paint pens and I’m pretty sure I’ve got a permanent hunch back now. It was really fun to see my bird man character come to life on the boots. My design is a homage to the working class, the unsung hero’s, ‘We are the flowers in your dustbin’. I would totally wear these every single day if I wasn’t so scared of ruining them.

It was really fun to see my bird man character come to life on the boots. My design is a homage to the working class, the unsung hero’s, ‘We are the flowers in your dustbin’.

Do you listen to music whilst you work? Name three tracks you can’t hear enough of:
Music is very important to me whilst I’m working, the thought of silence & a blank piece of paper is awful.
Madvillian – Raid.
Mary Jane Girls – All Night Long.
The Maccabees – Love You Better.

If you could have any super-power, what would it be?
That age old question! I used to want to be able to go invisible, but I reckon in the end you could only really cause mischief with that. I’d like to be able to morph into anything so I could be a pigeon and cruise around all day eating beef hula hoops off the floor and pooing on anyone & anything.

Joe’s artwork in our Reading store.

If you could draw anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
I would’ve loved to be able to draw Charles Darwin and help him with his documentation of odd animals from distant lands.

Tell us your favourite thing about the city you live in:
I’ve lived in Brighton for over 6 months now and I’m fortunate enough to live right on the seafront, so this summer was a dream reading & drawing in the sun (my watch tan was magnificent). It’s a lot colder now and the winds are mental, but I never get bored of looking at the Victorian buildings down by the seafront. The Royal Pavilion is beautiful. My favourite thing about Brighton is that there’s a whole bunch of creative people and it’s got a good energy about the place. It’s been cool moving somewhere exciting and meeting interesting people. I’ve learnt a lot of new things about my artistic practice in the short time that I’ve been here.

Tell us about your first pair of Dr. Martens:
The first pair of docs I got was a fair few years ago when I worked in a shoe shop, I got them for New Years and I was super excited to wear them with my outfit, we ended up at this weird rave in London in some old exhibition space and I danced until my feet bled, once I broke those bad boys in they where the most comfortable shoes I’d ever owned. Since then I’ve got an outrageous amount of Dr. Martens.

What do you stand for?
Curiosity & kissing.

Check Joe La Placa out on Instagram

Photo credit: Dean White.

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