Local teen channels creativity into custom shoes

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Two years ago, after finding inspiration on Instagram, McGregor teen TJ Hexom began translating his love of art into customizing shoes.

“I take shoes—the material doesn’t matter because I’ve got different paint for different materials—and put people’s ideas on the shoes,” Hexom explained.

Hexom favors cartoon imagery because it’s more goofy and fun.

But has also completed some more realistic designs, such as these butterflies.

Hexom has spent as little as four hours, and as much as 40 hours, on customizing a pair of shoes.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

TJ Hexom has always liked art. The MFL MarMac junior has been taking classes since his freshman year, and is considering the field for a future career—perhaps as a graphic designer or art teacher. 

 

“I like to keep my brain creative,” he said.

 

Two years ago, after finding inspiration on Instagram, he began using that creativity to customize shoes. 

 

“I take shoes—the material doesn’t matter because I’ve got different paint for different materials—and put people’s ideas on the shoes,” Hexom explained. “I think art is cool and I also like shoes a lot, and I liked the idea of having art you can wear. It’s cool to have art in your house, but to be able to show it to people on your feet—that’s a lot cooler. So I combined the two things I liked together.”

 

Hexom’s first design was on a pair of high top Vans. 

 

“I put all my favorite cartoons on them,” he said.

 

It’s since become his favorite style.

 

“I favor cartoons because it’s more goofy and fun. Especially if you’re going to have it on your shoe, it pops out more than having a serious painting,” he shared.

 

That doesn’t mean Hexom hasn’t tried his hand at more realistic imagery. He’s painted butterflies on one pair of shoes, and customized others with sunflowers and even a black rose.

 

“Now, my most recent pair I’m going to do is an actual landscape picture,” he said.

 

According to Hexom, Vans are the easiest shoes to customize because of their canvas material. Although the lines on the shoe add some difficulty, he described it as similar to painting on a regular canvas.

 

“I’ve started to paint leather a little more, like Jordans. And Air Forces are really popular,” he added. “I’ve got different paint that’s made for those. I use acrylic paint and get it from a brand called Angelus. They specialize in paint for shoes and shoe customization in general.”

 

Hexom said his first custom effort didn’t involve much planning.

 

“I just put stuff wherever it fit,” he remarked. “Now, it’s moved up from just ideas to actually planning it out and making it look good.”

 

Sometimes, he sketches the design out first. Most shoes can be penciled on, then erased, Hexom said.

 

“Otherwise, I just go into it,” he stated. “If it needs black outlines, I’ll outline so I know where all the lines are. Then I paint and re-outline.”

 

One pair of shoes has taken as little as four hours to complete.

 

“I painted playing cards on a pair, and that was pretty quick because it was just simple lines,” Hexom explained.

 

Another pair, however, required around 40 hours of work.

 

“I put a lot of stuff into it,” he said.

 

While Hexom has worked mostly on his own shoes, he’s customized pairs for others as well. So far, he’s completed around nine pairs. He’s taking additional requests through Facebook and Instagram.

 

“A lot of people around here don’t like shoes as much, so it’s harder to do things like that, but I’ve had people reach out to me,” he said.

 

Through this adventure, Hexom has enjoyed creating art that stands out—that is different.

 

“I don’t like wearing the same thing as everyone else, and I know a lot of people who don’t like to wear something that’s the same,” he said. “Being able to do that for people is cool. It’s also cool to see my own stuff being worn. When people are walking around with shoes on that I painted, they obviously enjoy them.”

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