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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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