What I love about creative folk is their ability to think outside the box when it comes to concepts and materials. Art isn’t just about using a typical canvas and paintbrush. It’s about expressing ones talents through the use of any medium… and what’s more unique than a work of art painted on a pair of Converse high tops?
I just recently discovered the work of Sandira Reddy and her company Canvas Warriors at a convention this past weekend, where a pair of her shoes were being auctioned off for charity. Not only is her craftsmanship incredible, but this girl has heart. I felt it my duty to share this incredible work with fans! Here’s my interview with Sandira.
You have the coolest job ever. You paint Converse sneakers!
How did it all begin?
I’ve always been an artist and knew I wanted to do something creative as a job. I had seen converse customized by other artists and though I’d give it a go. So I ordered a pair of shoes and painted them, I was so pleased with the result that I emailed one of my favorite blogs at the time, some photos of the shoes for feedback. They loved the shoes so much that they posted them on the blog. I woke up the next day to over 300 emails enquiring about where the shoes could be bought. I got my first shoe order the next day and my website went up that week! I haven’t stopped painting shoes since then. Canvas Warriors will be celebrating its 2nd birthday in a week!
Tell us about the materials you use and the process involved in creating such works of art.
First of all the shoes have to be primed, much like normal Canvas, before they can be painted on. I’ll then sketch out the design but usually just dive in and start painting. I have an idea of what the design will be like, but I love how that can evolve. Sometimes it will take a new direction, as I’ll have an idea while painting, or a mistake will also lead me in a new direction ultimately enhancing the outcome, I call them happy mistakes!
A cool time-lapse video showing the process of painting a shoe, courtesy of Lordybob:
Converse are so timeless and are THE canvas shoe really! Practically though they make sense, as the high tops allow enough space for painted designs. The space on the shoes afford much more creativity.
How difficult is it to paint on a pair of shoes?
It took some getting used to! I had only ever painted on large flat canvas, so working on a shoe is quite different. I also had to get accustomed with painting on a much smaller scale; my paintings are usually on 3 by 4 foot canvas.
When you tell people what you do, how do they react?
They are always really surprised and then intrigued to hear more. I have a whole photo album of designs I have painted on my phone, as it’s easier to show people than describe what it is I do! I usually get told that it’s the coolest job they have ever heard of and the most interesting!
At the moment Ian Somerhalder is our biggest name so far, so I am thrilled to have painted shoes for him. I have also created shoes for the UK X Factor (the show Leona Lewis won) I created studded leather shoes for the winner of last season and painted five pairs of shoes for a group called “One Direction” who were mentored by Simon Cowell on the show! They were “Team Simon shoes!” Tom Felton, Peter Facinelli, Jamie Campbell Bower and Rachelle LaFevre have all signed shoes that were sold for Charity. I have a wish list though, so I hope to have many more stars sporting Canvas Warriors! I have created quite a few wedding pairs, which is also really special!
What’s pair are you the most proud of?
It would have to be the ISF themed Converse that were recently painted for Ian Somerhalder. I was really happy with how the design turned out, Its one of the most detailed pairs so far. It’s also what the shoes represent, the themes reflected on them are something I am passionate about so to be able to donate them and help to raise awareness with my art has been amazing. A second pair are also in the process of being auctioned off for the ISF and so far are the most amount that have been spent on a pair of Canvas Warriors, there’s still a few days of the auction to go! Which is fantastic considering they are going to a charitable cause.
Let’s talk a little bit about the auction…
Who approached you to create this work of art for the ISF auction?
It was a joint venture between Jessica Lowery (of Vampire Stalkers and Mystic Falls Tours) and Canvas Warriors. She thought it was a great idea, and so did the IS Foundation. It was definitely something I wanted to do so we all made it happen!
What was your initial reaction to the specific art you wanted to create (the wolf/message)?
I loved the fact that the design was to be based around the causes he [Ian] supports. His foundation is so crucial and provides much needed awareness with all the issues they support that I immediately could visualize what I would paint. I cannot tell you how excited I was about this design and I was really happy at how the design turned out. Watching the Q&A was crazy because when asked about his favorite animal, Ian mentions something about “looking into an animals eyes.” Check out the detail on the shoes especially the Tiger’s eye! Very Serendipitous or as I’d like to think a case of great minds think alike.
Are you a Vampire Diaries fan?
I am. I got into it a bit late, but I love the show. I watch it while I’m working on shoes. Team Damon all the way, though I do love Stefan too. I need to start reading the books now!
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your work?
I recently received a phenomenal thank you letter from the Executive Director of the Ian Somerhalder (IS) Foundation. It was so amazing and made me feel so humbled as I am so proud of that pair! I am really lucky to have fantastic customers though and I get to create items that people really love, so fortunately I get wonderful feedback on the guestbook of my website. It really spurs me on to do and create more!
Have any other artists inspired you throughout your career?
I have always loved the greats like Dali, Monet, Van Gogh. My favorite artist is Georgia O’keeffe. I love Banksy, his work is so witty, creative and cutting edge. Something I try to incorporate into my work as much as possible. I really try to make the designs as detailed and clever, sometimes with little touches that only fans of that genre will recognize, it makes the wearer feel that much more special.
On a pair of ET Chucks, I painted ET with the famous “Ouch scene” to really make his finger glow, I added a Swarovski Crystal, so when seen it really catches the light and enhances the design. The Twilight shoes have red ribbon laces that match the cover of the third book, eclipse. I try to also be inspired by my peers now whether its a street artist or a fine artist, its a journey and I’m constantly striving to be better with each piece I paint for a client. In the last years of his life, Michelangelo once wrote on a sketch “Ancora Imparo.” “I am still learning.” This is something that resonates with me.
If you could have any other profession in life, what would it be?
I’ve always admired anyone with a creative job. I have often wondered how cool it would be to be an animator working for Pixar or Disney. To be honest I really do love what I do, so if I had to choose again, I’d do this!
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Durban, South Africa but grew up between there and England. For high school and University I was in England. I lived in New York for a while, even though I was 25 when I moved there, I certainly did some growing up!
Favorite place to visit?
It has to be Italy! I’ve been to Florence twice, visited Rome and I’m selling my items at a Twilight Convention in Naples in June. I adore travelling and exploring new places, culture and FOOD! I loved Oahu, Hawaii and will definitely re-visit.
I was a bartender (like every good Artist, Actor, singer and Writer!) in NYC so I’ve mixed every cocktail under the sun, including inventing a few myself! My favorite would have to be a Margarita on the rocks with salt, when made well it gets me in a party mood!
What would you do if you had a time machine?
I’d love to see what the world was like during different time periods a century ago. The 1920’s, 1940’s, The 1960’s and 1970’s seem like a cool time. It would be great to see and meet my ancestors to see where I came from! It would be great to see how artists worked, especially back in the day when they had to mix their own paints.
Find out more about Canvas Warriors
Watch a short documentary about Canvas Warriors, courtesy of Spark Productions: