London based illustrator Stephen Cheetham has created a series of sneaker illustrations focusing on his favourite Nike silhouettes from the ’70s to the ’00s.
When Stephen sent us this project it instantly intrigued us. We’re fans of most things sneakers, so getting our attention on this project wasn’t hard, but what really impressed us along with the quality and cleanliness of the art itself was the selection of footwear. Digging deep into Nike’s past, Stephen has dug for some familiar classics along with some lesser known models that reside in the shadows of the past. Models like the Bermuda from 1979, the Internationalist from 1981, the Terra Minot and the Zoom Spiridon from 1997, the Pocket Knife from 2000 and Zoom Moire from 2006. It’s a solid list that includes some popular favourites as well as some gems that send collectors wild.
As for the illustrations themselves, they stay very true to the original shoes without playing with the shape too much, which is nice. It’s a very very clean approach to illustration and works well for the shoes selected. Colours are crucial here and Stephen has managed to get them bang on. The use of the Nike shoe box orange as the backdrop is a nice little touch as well.
What inspired you to do this project?
Last year I was asked through my illustration agent Handsome Frank to take part in a feature on the Art & Sole blog called ‘A Few Of My Favourite Sneakers’. Being into sneakers I jumped at the chance and drew a pair of Cortez, and then the idea went from there. At first I thought about just illustrating my collection, but then thought it may be visually more interesting to do a set of work that looks at Nike’s through the ages to see how styles have changed. I want to go back and illustrate my collection too, just as a bit of fun for me more than anything.
How long have you been illustrating in this style?
I started off doing flyers for parties and gigs about 5 years ago, and spent a while doing that for fun without taking it too seriously. My style came pretty naturally, just from messing around until I found a process that I enjoyed and worked for me.
Have you always been a Nike fan?
I’ve been into sneakers since I was at school, but could never afford them. Nikes were always at the top of the wish list for some reason, I remember a kid having a pair of Tailwinds that made me very jealous next to my Cica! I guess it starts that way for a lot of collectors, sneaker heads, whatever you want to categorise it as. Now I’ve got a bit more money and my feet aren’t changing size I can treat myself every now and again.
Is this essentially a wish list? Do you actually own any of these shoes?
I own a few of the pairs from each decade, although the 70’s and 80’s pairs I’ve got are retros. OG’s would be nice, but it’d pain me not to be able to wear them without fear of them crumbling under my feet.
What are your favourites out of all of these shoes?
I’ve got a real soft spot for vintage runners, but I can’t choose between the Cortez and the LD-1000. Then again I love the Woven too. Difficult to pick just one!
Check out the illustrations below. We’ve blown up a few of our favourites so you can see them up close. If you’re feeling them, make sure you check out Stephen Cheetham online.