If you are one of artist Donald Robertson’s 176,000 Instagram followers, you’ve likely noticed that the man has a thing for shoes — vertiginous women’s luxury heels by designer Valentina Carrano, as it were. And when he’s not tied up with his duties as a creative director for Estee Lauder, he’s taken to wildly painting or applying his signature colorful grafter’s tape to the Italian-made stilettos in an ongoing shoe series.
The resulting vivid creation is then promptly posted to his @drawbertson account to a flurry of likes from footwear fetishists and pop-art fans alike.
The unlikely duo — she’s known for serenely elegant shapes in a subtle palette, he for all things audacious — first met during Carrano’s launch event at Bergdorf Goodman last year.
“He looked at my shoes and said, ‘Oh my god, I could so totally art this up,’ “ says Carrano. “I said, ‘Let’s see what you can do.’ It’s been a really cool thing.” The shoes-as-canvas collaboration continued with Robertson decorating more of her shoes for his Bergdorf Goodman-dedicated windows in 2015, and customers clamored to purchase the creations, with proceeds going to philanthropic causes.
“We were doing this as an art project and creative collaborative, not to make money. But now we’re looking at doing more together for charity,” Carrano says, who has long admired Robertson’s unique style. “I love how he’s so instinctive and has such a great eye for color. I was looking at his work for my own inspiration. I’m flattered he saw something in my work.”
We caught up with the California-based Robertson to hear more about shoes, making art and what’s on his feet these days.
You seem to like leaving your mark on shoes more and more. What is it about footwear that makes it a prime canvas?
“First of all, I have permission from Valentina to mess with her masterpieces. I love her silhouettes. They are so extremely feminine. I paint all around the curves. They are more like sculptures than paintings.”
You’ve worked with a number of labels already: Brian Atwood, Alice, Olivia and Converse. What is it that drew you to Valentina’s shoes?
“I met VC at Bergdorf’s when I did my art take over there. She is like me. She has kids. She loves fashion, but she has no problem messing with the pretense of it all. I like that. She is cool and also her hubby is a friend, too.”
Are these meant as collector’s pieces, or are they at all intended for wear?
“I stood and painted them on the seventh floor of Bergdorf’s and literally sold them wet. People went nuts for them. And this ain’t Zappos [cost-wise], if you know what I mean. I imagine they look good in someone’s shoe closet as works of art.”
What was the inspiration behind the artwork you applied to the shoes?
“I don’t think. I just do. It’s almost like I black out, and then I see them later on my Instagram and I’m like, ‘This guy is good.’ “
Earliest shoe memory?
” ‘Wizard of Oz,’ I guess, on TV. Or ‘The Flintstones’ [with the characters] being all barefoot.”
What are some of your go-to shoes to wear currently?
“Me? I just moved to Cali, and all my beautiful Church dress shoes are sitting on the shelf. Replaced by roller-blades! That’s what Cali does to you.”
To view more of the collaboration, click through the gallery below.