For Sita Long, creativity flows with the stroke of a paintbrush.
The senior designer at Roxy, a division of Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Quiksilver Inc., started drawing at a young age before honing her craft at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., where she studied illustration.
“I was always creative. I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator,” said Long, 29, who transferred to Roxy in 2011 after starting out at sister brand DC Shoes in 2006.
And though Long’s career path took a slightly different turn from her initial plan, her love of art easily translates to her current line of work, in which she turns some of her illustrations into footwear sketches.
“I might be looking at an art blog, but at the same time it could turn into research for a shoe [design],” said Long. “Quite a variety of what I do — from hand sketching and computer drawing to trend forecasting and designing the shoes and materials — plays into [art] as well.”
One of her biggest sources of inspiration has been travel. Long regularly takes trips for work and includes nature settings as one of her many muses.
“It’s a huge influence getting out of your day-to-day and getting inspired,” she said, adding that Asia is a hotspot for her. “It is such a different planet, and in Vietnam, there is so much history behind the food, culture and people.”
She often uses hues she sees while on the road in her artwork, as well as in her designs for Roxy.
“I’m a big fan of brights and fluorescents and unique combos,” said Long. “The color combinations I see are trend relevant in the fashion and art world, and apply to art pieces as well as Roxy’s footwear line.”
In her downtime, Long works in a variety of media. For one recent piece, she added airline boarding passes to a collage, using a mixture of acrylic and spray paint.
And her subjects run the gamut. She’s drawn everything from deer and birds to a skull surrounded by flowers. She’s also been known to sketch people and recently painted a stylized image of a girl on the back of a skateboard deck.
“I always default to mixed media. I like the juxtaposition of [different materials],” added Long.
On occasion, the artist sells pieces to friends and family, or through word-of-mouth references. Her work has appeared in several art fairs, including a solo showcase last year in Seal Beach, Calif. “It was a great experience to get feedback about what people responded to,” said Long. “It was a nice way to please not just myself with my art but other people as well.”
Many more people see her design skill through Roxy. Currently, Long is working with the juniors’ brand to expand its Cruiser collection and add global accounts for its sandal lines.
And additional projects are in the pipeline for the active lifestyle category, including product geared toward snowboarders and surfers.
But everything comes back to her love of art. “The line [between the two] is pretty blurry,” she said. “[My inspirations] represent the lifestyle of the girl we design for. She’s active and well traveled, so [art and illustration are] super relevant to our designs.”