Bet You Couldn’t Tell These Ultrarealistic Sneakers Are Paintings

For some, shoes are a thing of convenience to slip on and step out in without much afterthought. For many others, however, footwear means so much more — endlessly checking out kicks on the subway or window shopping.

Artist Ken Solomon is a self-declared sneakerhead and expresses this passion through watercolor paintings centering around shoes.

When asked what inspired him to choose sneakers as his frequent subject of choice, Solomon said: “I love the idea of hundreds of objects that share virtually the exact same form, all oriented the same way. But within that form, they all have a completely unique look, style and visual flavor.”

When Solomon started these paintings, he chose styles “based on personal nostalgia. They were reflections and representations of me, sneakers that I had worn in the past.”

ken solomon, sneakers, sneaker painting, watercolor, nike air force one, nike
A watercolor painting of a Nike Air Force One by artist Ken Solomon.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Ken Solomon

For the painter, sneakers have a deeper meaning than just a type of shoe.

“They represent people,” explained Solomon. “So much of what I do uses iconographic, commercially recognizable imagery and subjects but then is about personal taste and about dialogue.”

ken solomon, sneakers, sneaker painting, watercolor, chuck roy
A watercolor painting of a Chuck Roy sneaker by artist Ken Solomon.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Ken Solomon

Solomon’s ultrarealistic paintings are no simple task. The artist said that the two most challenging types of sneakers to paint are “contemporary running shoes, with their tiny tight mesh patterns and wildly busy textures, as well as all-white, relatively flat textured plain sneakers since all-white is painted by looking at shadows and contrasts that pop off of an all-white sheet of paper.”

ken solomon, sneakers, sneaker painting, watercolor, nike, kd 8
A watercolor painting of a Nike KD 8 “Bright Crimson” by artist Ken Solomon.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Ken Solomon

One of the Brooklyn, N.Y., local’s newest endeavors with painting shoes is creating pieces inspired by families.

“The idea of painting a traditional picture based on a family photo was not true to my vision,” said Solomon. “I had to decline. But I suggested, what if I paint, to scale, watercolors of each member of your family’s sneakers? [The family] said yes, and it spawned a new direction painting ‘portraits’ of people via their sneakers.”

ken solomon, sneakers, sneaker painting, watercolor
A watercolor painting showing a family portrait of a son and two daughters by artist Ken Solomon.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Ken Solomon

If he had to choose one shoe that would be included in his personal portrait, he decided on the original Stan Smith sneaker. “Classic. Appears simple, but complicated to paint,” Salomon said.

ken solomon, sneakers, sneaker painting, watercolor, adidas, stan smith
A watercolor painting of an Adidas Stan Smith sneaker by artist Ken Solomon.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Ken Solomon

Solomon’s pieces can be found at Kensolomon.com, at Lootfocker.com, and on Instagram at ken_solomon_studio.

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