We love a good bit of sneaker related art, so when we discovered the work of Josh Parkin and more specifically his recent ‘Trainer Takeover’ series, we had to showcase it and have a chat with the man himself.
Josh’s work is varied to say the least. He likes to explore different styles and approaches to projects and subjects, but there’s almost always a running theme of humor within his work. There’s a strong sense that his artwork is a window into his mind and a raw visual representation of his wondering thoughts on a topic. This series of sneaker illustrations is probably the most potent example of his wondering imagination finding its way onto a page, and we can’t help but love seeing these iconic silhouettes taken well and truly out of their natural environments and re-interpreted by Josh’s imagination.
Featuring a long list of classics, the series includes Adidas Shell Toes and Tech Supers, Nike Air Max 97s, FlyKnits, Huaraches and Free Run 2s, as well as Diadora B.Originals and New Balance 1500s. It’s a very strong selection and nicely varied. We spoke to Josh about why he feels the need to showcase sneakers in such a way and how his love for sneakers came about. It’s always fascinating to get an insight into the thought process of a creative person, and Josh is no different, being equally as unique as his work.
How long have you been doing illustration? Your style seems to vary quite a bit from project to project. Is this important to you?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. Growing up I went through different stages where I’d sit for hours drawing anything; footballers, South Park characters and even hairstyles. I used to have a folder with plastic wallets inside crammed full of football boot and trainer designs, like hundreds of them though. Looking back now, I realise how much I was influenced by brands from an early age.
Now when I look back at my work, I can see development and progress as I move from one project to another. I wouldn’t say I change my style intentionally, it seems to just happen as a natural process. I’d never think “Oh, I’ll play it safe for this client” and then submit something I’m not 100% happy with.
The images in this series have a very playful nature that matches the visual approach. Why did you decide to take the sneakers out of their natural contexts and show them in this light?
I think the project reflects the way I look at trainers. The detail in which I like to study the product, weather it’s before deciding to buy, or once I’m home and relacing them. Once you have the object in your hand, you can look at it from different angles, exaggerating features. As for the playful nature, I guess it’s just what I do. People who know me will say my personality shines through my work. I don’t like to take myself too seriously.
The thought process behind your work seems to have a childish sense of boundless creativity to it. Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I get annoyed easily, so the best way to express how annoyed I am at certain people/situations is to draw what I see and post it to a large audience (often tubmlr, twitter or instagram). Trainers are also a massive inspiration. I like to study models, draw them in different ways, and exaggerate features. I go through different phases, one week might be spent drawing trainers, and the next I might be drawing characters or weird monsters. The third week might be spent drawing a mix of the previous two weeks work.
Sneakers often feature in your work. How long have you been interested in sneakers and do you own any of the featured kicks yourself?
I’ve always loved trainers. I guess my earliest memories are going shopping with my mum for ‘holiday trainers’ and it always taking hours for me to decide what pair I wanted. The worst part was getting home and been told that you had to wait 3 months to actually wear them. I remember at high school, asking to lend £120 for a pair of Nike Shox and promising to pay £5 a week back out of my Saturday job! Obviously as I’ve aged, it’s become more of a serious subject. From reading up on forthcoming releases, to queuing outside size? over night for the anniversary series.
When creating this Trainer Takeover series, it wasn’t really a matter of drawing my own trainers. I basically thought of an idea, then chose the trainer after, looking at what model would suit the object I wanted to replace. For example, the adidas Superstar is chunky, and bubble-like, so it was ideal for the ‘Blimp’ picture.
Looking through the images, there are a fair few I own; Pre Montreal Racer, Lunar Flow and Freerun2 from Nike. Also the New Balance 574 and 1500.
As you continue to develop as an illustrator, how do you intend to further your work with footwear?
I don’t really see what I do as ‘work’, Its more of a hobbie, something I enjoy doing. I enjoy the late nights and tight deadlines, the emails back and forth with clients. I couldn’t see myself spending my whole working carear in the same place or city. I’d like to move around working with different brands, shops and websites.
At the moment I’m just trying to get my name out there, weather it be sending out prints or hand drawn artwork to bloggers and shops. Hopefully if they retweet and review my work, it opens my name into different circles of people.
If you could do a dream project with any sneaker brand, what would it be?
With my collection being so varied, adidas, Nike, New Balance and Asics mainly, I’d say that my dream project would be to link up and work with a retailer, rather than the sneaker company itself. To work with someone like Colette or Tres Bien would be a dream. I really like the pop-up stuff Colette do. I see a lot of that on instagram and the detail they go into (window displays, wall murals and props) is incredible. The collaborator’s personality and design process’ are as much important as the final product on sale.