We recently caught up with Steven Piantoni who is the founder of Matchkicks.co.uk and creator of SneakerToons which is inspired by sneakers and sketching. Continue reading to find out more about the sneakers he illustrates, his process and why New Balance. (All photos provided by Steven Piantoni)
Please introduce yourself and your site.
My name is Steven Piantoni and I am currently an exterior designer for Lotus Cars. I graduated from Coventry University in 1999 with a BA Hons in automotive design. From 1999 to 2007 I was employed by Bentley Motors. It was an amazing eight years and I was lucky enough to work on, The Continental GT, Flying Spur and the Mulsanne.
In 2008 I took a career switch and got into footwear design. This is were my sneaker fetish began. I worked for a company called Pentland. They own the footwear licenses of many brands, including BoxFresh, Lacoste and Berghaus. My automotive skills transferred nicely into the footwear industry, although there was still a steep learning curve. During my time there I designed a range of trekking shoes for Berghaus and the SS10 range for BoxFresh. Great times and work I’m very proud of.
From there I took another switch and found myself working for a product design consultancy in Windsor. They were a great bunch of guys and the work was fast paced and exciting. Here, I meet a fellow sneaker head who first introduced me to the beauty of New Balance. After three great years my passion for cars had resurfaced, and so I find myself working for and driving one of my favorite marques, Lotus.
As a creative I’m always looking for new way to express myself. After winning the Size?xNike AirMax Instagram competition, I found myself with a new artistic outlet and audience. Through this, my first site was born Matchkicks.co.uk. This business combined my love of matching my t-shirt to my kicks and my love of art. Through clever graphic design, I launched a range of sneaker inspired tee’s. With the help of a company called Spreadshirt I was able to upload multiple designs and colourways. Something I couldn’t do if I was printing the shirts myself. With some success, this fuelled my next venture idea, SneakerToons. Nothing complicated about this one. Just a love of sneakers and sketching. Starting as a ‘doodle a day’ that I posted on Instagram, it stirred some interest in the sneaker community. There are so many great shoes and collaboration colour-ways. After a while I decided I would sell them as limited edition mini prints. Signed and number by myself. Look out for them on sneakertoons.bigcartel.com very soon. They will be limited to 25 for each colourway and I am starting with the New Balance 1500 part of the RGB pack by Sneakers N Stuff.
Why did you choose to illustrate the New Balance sneaker?
I choose the New Balance 1500 because its such an iconic shoe. Its a timeless design that is well loved, not only by New Balance collectors but by all sneakerheads alike. Combine that with the fact it has been colabed by some of the greats, makes it a perfect base for creating recognizable art that people will want to collect.
As an artist where do you get your inspiration?
As a designer and artist, my inspiration comes from everywhere. I try to expose myself to as much creative input as I can. Media, galleries and traveling as much as I can. A lot of the time I can’t explain where a particular idea has come from. I think its subconscious. My brain is great at taking everything in and then spewing out things i’ve seen, but mixed up in a new way (this is usually at 4 in the morning!).
Can you describe your process when creating art?
It normally starts with a doodle which becomes a sketch and intern an underlay. This is then refined until it’s ready to be scanned. Once in a digital form I either use photoshop or illustrator to produce the finished coloured up artwork.
What mediums do you most use? Why?
In this age of computers and 3d printing its easy to forget the humble Bic biro. Id say 95% of my work starts here! In my opinion there’s no substitute for a hand drawn sketch. That ‘feel’ and connection can’t be beaten. Having said that technology is coming on leaps and bounds. The new stuff from Wacom is amazing. My weapon of choice for most of my working week is, Photoshop and a Wacom tablet. I do love this program. It gives you the power to create pretty much anything you can imagine. Its a phenomenal tool.
What are your thoughts on the currently state of the sneaker game?
It fascinating to me, to see how the most technically advanced running shoes of there time, have filtered into mainstream fashion. Im a sucker for an ‘old skool’ runner and its great to see all the retro stuff coming back.
For me this a bit of a double edged sword though, as many sneakerheads pride themselves on having the original shoe and standing out from the crowd. With a retro release you’re no longer the exception, but part of the masses. I guess those in the ‘know’ will always know, but I think this is a driving factor the in the rising prices and the hype surrounding many shoes.
Having said all that. With all the retro stuff around there can be a lack of innovation. Its all to easy for the big brands to slap a new colorway or material technique on an old silhouette and pump it out to the masses. I’m not saying there isn’t new stuff around but its not like it used to be. Maybe I’m just getting old.
What is your favorite New Balance sneaker?
My favourite New Balance sneaker I own is my 577 Estate pack by Size?. I love the materials and the attention to detail. The latin words on the tongue mean, “The shoe maketh the man”, awesome! Although I do love a 1500.
What makes New Balance memorable to you? Why?
I have a lot of respect for New Balance. They have maintained a high standard of materials, design and craftsmanship, despite growing to a global brand. A visit to the Flimby site is definitely on my bucket list!
What do you see New Balance doing differently than other brands?
I think New Balance has a unique place in the sneaker community. They have such a rich history and seem to retain the charm of a small family business despite there global presence.
Will you be illustrating any other New Balance models?
Im intending to illustrate many of the ‘classic’ sneakers from the usual suspects, but i’m sure I will revisit New Balance. Maybe with the ubiquitous 574 or perhaps a 998.
What are your next upcoming projects we can check for?
Well, I think SneakerToons and Matchkicks will be keeping me busy for the foreseeable future! Not to mention the day job. Although I have got something in the pipeline. Not sneakers this time, but my other passion cars. Keep an eye out for “Cut Cars.” Automotive movie art inspired prints.