Stephen Cheetham & Nike
After taking part in our 'A Few of My Favourite Sneakers' project last year (with illustration agency Handsome Frank), London-based illustrator Stephen Cheetham was inspired to create a series of artworks documenting his favourite Nike shoes from the past four decades. We're actually working with Cheetham at the moment, so thought we'd take the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his Nike-inspired artwork...
Can you explain a little about your background?
I wanted to be a product designer when I left college, so I went to Newcastle to study 3D design. Had lots of fun, learned some things, moved to London looking for work, but failed to be a product designer and ended up working in retail. At the same time I had a few friends who put on gigs and parties and asked me to do flyers for them. People seemed to like the flyers, so I took it more seriously and really started to enjoy it. That's where my path into illustration started. I played with my style, put a portfolio together, kept working on flyers/posters/competitions and then looked into getting an agent. After a few years working on my illustration whenever I could, I got a break when I joined Handsome Frank, and now work as a freelance illustrator.
What is your relationship with sneakers?
At school I never had 'cool' sneakers. I didn't have the money to buy my own, and my parents didn't see the point in buying expensive sneakers, especially when my feet were still growing. Strict diet of Cica and Hi-Tec for me, until I started earning money for myself. I didn't start 'collecting' until university though. I signed up to Crooked Tongues, kept an eye on new releases, spent money on eBay and gradually filled my bedroom with shoeboxes.
What made you draw 32 pairs of sneakers - and why Nike?
I have a real soft spot for Nike runners from the 70s, so after illustrating the Cortez for the Art & Sole 'A Few of My Favourite Sneakers' feature, I started illustrating some other personal favourites. Just for fun really, but then I started thinking about what I could do with them and thought about a series of posters, not only concentrating on the 70s but other decades too. The series was born. I've always preferred Nike to any other sneaker brand. Not sure why, just aesthetically more appealing to me I guess.
Are these your favourite Nike's from each decade, or were these silhouettes simply the most interesting to draw?
I'd say these are some of my favourites. There are some big omissions from each decade, but I limited myself to eight just for layout and continuity.
Was it tough to limit the selection to just eight shoes per 10 years?
Yeah, very tough. Especially the 70s and 80s. There are so many amazing releases from those decades. I actually found the 00s difficult, but just because I don't think there were that many decent releases then. It was all about retro’s and different colourways, but of shoes that were from previous decades. New Nikes from the 00s didn't really appeal to my taste, apart from the eight I picked out. I didn't want to start illustrating retro’s, I wanted it to be new models only.
From past experience we know you love the Cortez, but which was your favourite shoe to draw from this project?
I think I'd have to say the Bruin, just because it's a beautifully simple silhouette, and I think it works well in my simple illustrative style. If you asked me tomorrow I'd probably completely change my mind though. Difficult to choose.
Lastly, have you earmarked any recent releases for a future 2010s collection?
Definitely. There have been some pretty amazing new models this year alone, my favourite being the Flyknit Racer. I've yet to get my hands on a pair (pesky all-night queues), but hopefully soon with more colour ways being released.
*Giclée prints of all four artworks are now available to purchase via the Art & Sole shop