ArtKicks: Interview with Evan SchultzJuxtapoz // Wednesday, 14 Apr 2010
Words by Jack Jensen
Photos by Evan Shultz
At first glance, Evan Schultz is really just your average fourth-year advertising student – trying to avoid the snooze long enough to still graduate this upcoming June. Well, he’s not exactly your average keg-tapping collegian.
Schultz, 22, is a burgeoning entrepreneur and artistic whiz kid. Who, behind a thick pair of Roy Orbison specs, authentic 1950s hair pomade and a faded Batmobile tee, has built his own custom shoe business from no more than an empty stomach and a sharpie.
Originally from Albuquerque, N.M., Schultz is now a senior at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Ore. He’s also the creator of ArtKicks, a custom shoe operation in which Schultz will draw anything and everything imaginable per the buyer’s request onto a fresh pair of Vans, Keds or Converse. A year ago, Evan considered himself the proverbial starving artist – mostly losing his coinage on concert tickets and the corner taco truck – and needed some money fast. An aspiring graphic designer and production artist, Schultz put his talents to work on a neighbor’s pair of old shoes for a few bucks. Light bulb.
To date, Shultz has sold over 40 pairs of his custom creations – with many more waiting patiently in the queue – and has drawn on looking fans from across the nation. While fielding gallery showings and an increasing demand in product, it’s no wonder that he’s had to recently expand the AK team and enlist the help of fellow ad-kid artist, Cam Giblin. And their portfolio is diverse: depictions have ranged from face melting horror flicks to giant destructive unicorns to a sick rendition of Where the Wild Things Are. Together, the pair has bumped up Schultz’s original asking price of free, to the tune of $179 plus shipping. But shoe wearers continue to chomp at the bit for more.
“It was one of those things where if you’re excited about something, other people get excited about it too…it’s authentic and it’s just a college guy who used what he had in his means to grow it,” says Schultz. Recently, I was able to spend some time with Evan for a little talk about his growing venture and just where he sees this thing going…
Jack Jensen: Where’d you come up with the idea to start ArtKicks?
Evan Schultz: Well, it literally came from the fact that I was starving. Like, you hear jokes about the starving college student, but that was literally me. I had just gotten back from Safeway with the (only) 10 dollars I had to buy food and I was still hungry. I was like ‘ah fuck’ I really need to do something to make money. Then I did a pair (of shoes) for some people in the dorms as a joke for thirty bucks. I was like ‘holy shit, this is the answer.’ I just made cash sitting down for a couple hours, taking out a marker and drawing on this guy’s shoes. So it grew from there. I set up a blog – I still don’t have a real website, which is the next thing I need to do…then I did this one-month promo thing where I’d do the art for free if the people provided the shoes. It allowed me to generate buzz and it also created photos that I could put on the blog. It also allowed me to really fuck up and make mistakes along the way. These people had very little expectations; they were students with not a lot of money invested in it.
JJ: You definitely have a unique style, so what are you more culturally drawn to?
ES: A lot of my art comes out of heavy metal, punk rock culture. A lot of underground horror stuff. A lot of underground, you know spaceships with skulls. I don’t know, like skeletons piloting a spaceship that’s shooting lasers into mastodons and the mastodons are blowing up blood all over a zombie. It’s just like completely ridiculous death metal album covers, punk rock album covers and psychobilly album covers. And like a lot of B-movie culture; black and white 50’s sci-fi art and movie posters from that era are really, really influential to me. That and comic book culture too. I was huge into comic books in high school. Between the ages of 13-18, I think I amassed a collection of like 4,000 comic books or something like that.
JJ: Skeletons. Mastodons. That’s some weird shit bro…
ES: (laughs) Well, what’s interesting about ArtKicks is that you can’t just do that; you can’t just do zombies and heavy metal stuff – as much as I would love to do that – the whole lesson about ArtKicks is about learning how to be a production artist who works with a variety of clients. You know you’ll get somebody who wants me to do skulls battling zombies and that’s fun, and then you’ll also get somebody who says, ‘hey, I really like lotus blossoms and calm ocean beach scenes.’ And in my mind, I’m going well I’ve never done that before, but I better do it because I want the shoes on their feet and I want them to pay for it. So it’s a really good lesson because it’s built my diversity as an artist. I’ve gotten better at being flexible.
JJ: You’re about to graduate, where does your baby go from here?
ES: Right now what I do with ArtKicks isn’t scalable and it isn’t sustainable. It’s really hard to do one-off customs, and I think the next step that has to happen for ArtKicks to grow is some sort of mass production. Whether that’s hiring more people, I don’t know. Since I’m an ad major, when I graduate I hope to get really busy working for a cool ad agency doing graphic design illustration…And maybe in a year or two – when I’ve gotten a little bit more professional – I can meet some awesome people, and pull two or three out with me, and start up ArtKicks as a major force in terms of apparel.
If you’re interested in seeing some more awesome shoe pics or grabbing a pair of ArtKicks for your own cold feet, head over to www.artkicks.blogspot.com or you can email Shultz directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.