Greetings Uristocrats. Today’s featured sneaker artist/enthusiast is Julie Youngblood. I came across a pair of her Bob Marley decorated vans a couple weeks ago on the feet of a classmate, and was awestruck because I rarely come across hand decorated and customized sneakers of such high quality. I was able to track her down and have a discussion about her art and her background as an artist. I hope you enjoy her unique perspective and the visual treats below.
Babe Ruth of Banter: Where did you go to school and what did you specialize in? Did you always feel comfortable taking such a non-traditional educational path?
Julie Youngblood: I just graduated from NYU, majoring in Art History with a minor in Studio Art, so I wouldn’t say that my education was necessarily non-traditional. I got a base liberal arts education and learned all about the history of the paintings I loved and aspired to be as creative and innovative as those who game before me, as corny as that sounds. The best part about NYU was that since it was right in the city, I could always go to museums and galleries and see what was going on.
Babe Ruth of Banter: Where are you working now and what do you do?
Julie Youngblood: I, like my fellow recent graduates, am just excited to have a job fresh out of school! I have moved back to Los Angeles, my hometown, and am currently working as an art assistant at Sony Screen Gems on their newest movie. The hours are long (they try to keep it around 12 hours a day), but I have met some awesome people and am learning interesting things about the business. After this movie wraps in late September, I plan on taking some time off, maybe traveling, before moving to Sun Valley Idaho and pursuing my love for skiing as an instructor. I am also working on my shoes and paintings on the side, because without that I think I would go a little nuts, or more nuts than I already am. After that? I am thinking wrangling cattle or being a river rafting guide.
Babe Ruth of Banter: How would you describe your style? Do you have any favorite articles of clothing or accessories?
Julie Youngblood: I am a pretty casual person. I stick with some old jeans (which my sisters are constantly trying to throw away!) and plain tees, accompanied by sneakers from my ever expanding collection. I have an obscene amount of converse and vans. As for favorite accessories, I would say my Saint Christopher medal, which I never take off.
Babe Ruth of Banter: How did you get started designing and customizing sneakers?
Julie Youngblood: It was actually out of plain old boredom and lack of paper. I have always had some pretty diversely decorated notes and doodle pages and never am lacking a sharpie of some kind, so when I was sitting in class sophomore year I decided to explore new doodle options. I had just bought new white vans and after making a few casual sketches on them, I took them home and literally went nuts. Broke out the Prismacolor design markers and viola! My roommate Laura loved them so much that I made her a pair that weekend, and since then I have been making them for family and friends for fun and as gifts around holiday season.
Babe Ruth of Banter: What inspires your work? How do you come up with these incredible designs?
Julie Youngblood: It really just comes from whatever nabs my attention. For a while after taking a class on ancient art in China, and while I was taking a printmaking class I became obsessed with tigers. Horses are also a common one, because I ride and am familiar with their anatomy which makes it easier to draw. I love drawing animals, circles, and patterns, so whatever brings them together is what ends up on the paper. As for the shoes, I ask people to give me a list of 10 or more of their favorite things and then go from there. That way they are truly unique and completely customized to each individual.
Babe Ruth of Banter: How long does it usually take you to finish customizing a pair of sneakers?
Julie Youngblood: I have never actually timed myself because I usually take a couple of days just off and on, but I would say anywhere from 12 to 18 hours depending on how complex and how large your shoes are.
Babe Ruth of Banter: How much do you charge to complete these unique pieces?
Julie Youngblood: I have only really done it for family and friends, or as gifts, so they pay with a bottle of tequila or taking me out to dinner or just plain old thanks. I would love to start a side business, so I guess that if people just gave me their white sneakers I could charge a base fee. $100? 120 bucks? That seems a little steep, especially for students, but it would be less than $10/hour on my side of the deal and I go through markers pretty quickly. I will have to think about that one.
Babe Ruth of Banter: Where do you see yourself taking your craft in the near future? Do you have plans to expand or experiment with different materials?
Julie Youngblood: I would really like to make a pair of pants! Or maybe a baseball cap. The only problem is I use design instead of permanent markers, which I spray an acrylic sealant over to prevent serious water or dirt damage. I don’t know if I would trust that through, let’s say, a washing machine or a monsoon. I could try it, and if it turns out disastrously I can call it my impressionistic phase. (I know, bad art joke, but hey cut me some slack. I am trying to put my great and outrageously expensive college education to some use).
Babe Ruth of Banter: Where do you plan to be five, ten, and 15 years from now artistically?
Julie Youngblood: Besides shoes, I will always love to paint and draw. I am going to paint a really huge piece for my aunt and uncle this summer and one of my little cousins, which I plan to make about 8’x8′. Building and stretching that canvas is going to be a doosie! I plan on always having something going on art-wise. As for life, who knows? I am just going to keep on working, either here in LA or up in Idaho or wherever my little heart desires, and keep trying to make my art as I go along. I would love to make it my life but a girl has got to eat. I have a plan for the next year so that is good enough for me! I’ll figure out the rest when I get there.
Babe Ruth of Banter: Do you have any parting words for any burgeoning artists like yourself and the readers?
Julie Youngblood: Without sounding cliché I am all about having fun and I am trying to turn a new leaf and doing what makes me happy (hopefully without becoming a selfish asshole!). That is why I cringe when people ask me “what’s your life plan?” I have no clue! What’s YOUR life plan? Who knows, at 22, what they want to do for the next 65 (plus or minus) some odd years? I figure just do what you want while you can, because otherwise you never will and you will just look back and say shoulda woulda coulda. Go watch “Up”. If you haven’t seen it, then watch it and you will know what I am talking about. And try everything! I am not a spicy food person, but the other day my sister convinced me to try a new dish. Curry something something. And even though I had some extreme hot flashes and moments where I thought my tongue was going to fall out I can say I tried it! Will I ever eat that particular dish again? No, I am not a sadist, but a little sense of adventure here and there keeps things interesting.
If you are interested in contacting Julie, you can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org