words & interview // Nick DePaula
As we’ve seen through the years in our artist spotlight series, there’s a lot of ways to draw a shoe. You can beautifully sketch and shade by pencil or computer render the hell out of every last proportion, but as we continue moving into a new digital age of modern design, it’s becoming harder and harder for aspiring artists to truly stand out. That’s why the work of Rhyen Ellis really caught our eye as a break from the norm, thanks to his entirely unique and quirky styling of everyone‘s favorite sneakers.
A 26 year-old graphic designer from Adelaide, Australia, Ellis has been posting his digital drawings of some of the industry’s most beloved shoes on his Tumblr blog, Kick-Draw.tumblr.com, and the progressive takes are giving us an entirely new glimpse of shoes we’ve seen literally thousands of times through the years. Check out some of Rhyen’s favorite drawings, more on his design process and a look at the artist behind KICK DRAW ahead.
Be sure to check out the 12.2011 iPad Issue of Sole Collector later this week for even more high-res designs from Ellis, as well as sneakers exclusively designed for his iPad feature.
Nick DePaula: How did you get the idea to draw sneakers in such a unique style?
Rhyen Ellis: I was looking at Robb Harskamp's site. He had done this great poster of all the NBA Slam Dunk Contest participants jerseys in a cartoony style, and he had a couple of shoes drawn in a similar style. I wanted to see how the early Jordans would look in this style, and really liked how they looked. I just kept drawing more and more, and thought “I might as well share these.”
Nice, and thanks for deciding to share! What program do you use and what is the usual drawing process like? How long does each drawing take you?
I use Adobe Illustrator. Each shoe takes about 45 minutes to an hour. From there, it's usually pretty simple to create the different colorways.
How long have you been into sneakers, and how many pairs do you have?
I've been into basketball sneakers since I was about 11, but never really from a collecting aspect, just to play basketball in, really. In the past I haven't worn sneakers much, aside from playing basketball in. The majority of my shoe collection is made up of varying shades of brown leather shoes, but that is changing. I'm buying, and wanting to buy, more sneakers these days.
What are some of your favorite shoes?
The Jordan IXs are the first pair of sneakers I can remember playing in. Other shoes I wore and really liked were the Nike Air More Uptempo, Nike Garnett IIIs and the Adidas T-Mac 1s in all white. But, these days my favorites would probably be Jordan XIs or VIs. I've always been an NBA fan, rather than a sneaker fan, so most of the shoes I like are basketball shoes from the 90s, usually the original or pretty standard colorways.
Do you have a favorite drawing, or is there maybe a shoe that was much harder to draw than you expected?
Sometimes it's hard not to get too detailed with the textures and patterns, but I think the simpler shoes look best, like the Concords or the Kobe Twos. That said, the Shaqnosis are another of my favorite illustrations, which took a lot of fiddling to get all the curves right. I've drawn Jordans 1-14, and I probably spent the most time on these, nit-picking and trying to make sure I haven't missed anything.
Air Jordan I
adidas The Kobe Two
Nike Air Yeezy
Reebok Kamikaze II
Air Jordan XI