Go Ahead, Paint Your Ugly Sneakers in Watercolor!

Go Ahead, Paint Your Ugly Sneakers in Watercolor! post image

Do you ever have terrifying thoughts when you’re just about to board an airplane?

The theme of the poem Passengers* by poet Billy Collins comes from his thoughts about just that, and thoughts which I’ve experienced myself, when boarding a plane. Maybe you have, too.

“Will I go together with this group of people to the other side of our shared existence while flying on this plane?”

Why, you might wonder, am I mentioning such a gloomy scenario?

My answer is simple: Because I marvel at how Billy Collins caught that odd and uneasy feeling and transformed his scary thought into a poem.

His poem made me think about how any and all experiences can be a subject for art. Objects and experiences are the anchors which hold memories we can choose to celebrate and share.

Last November I travelled to the lovely and warm town of Bucaramanga, Colombia, with my parents. One afternoon was particularly sweet as my mother and I casually surveyed the many shops that sold shoes. The timing was perfect. My old sneakers were quite ready to be replaced, and so I replaced them!

My eyes hold the opinion that sneakers are plain, if not ugly. But my feet radically disagree with my eyes and think that there is nothing like the beautiful comfort that sneakers provide!

To give our eyes some joy when looking at the plain black sneakers I had bought, my mother and I decided on some brightly colored shoelaces and laced up one shoe with a bright green one, and the other with a bright pink one.

We giggled, and wondered if I had made my sneakers look even uglier pairing them with such garish colors.

So, why did I decide to paint my ugly sneakers? Choosing to paint them is one way to relive the memory of that carefree afternoon, spent with my mother, doing girlish things like finding lovely shoe bargains.

Here I share photo-steps of my process to paint these plain sneakers in watercolor.

Painting sneakers in watercolor -Step 1: After the drawing is transferred to the watercolor paper, the shoelaces are colored first. The color was applied wet on wet.

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Painting sneakers in watercolor -Step 2: Once the shoelaces were dry, a layer of clear water was applied and while wet, some gray paint for the cast shadow was added.

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Painting sneakers in watercolor -Step 3: A first layer of dark gray was applied wet on wet. 

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Painting sneakers in watercolor -Step 4: When the first layer was totally dry, details were added such as shadows for the pink shoelace and, working wet on wet, a darker gray for the inside of the shoes. 

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Painting sneakers in watercolor -Step 5: Shadows for the green shoelace were added. 

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Painting sneakers in watercolor -Step 6: One by one each of the dark areas was wetted and saturated color was added to create the illusion of shadow.  

Look at the shoes you’re wearing right now. Any special memory attached to them?…Yes? Nope? 

In this short video you can see how the first layers were applied.

*If you’d like to read the poem Passenger, by Billy Collins, you can find it in his book Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins.
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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Minet January 30, 2018, 3:47 am

    With this painting they are not ugly at all, such a lovely example of how magic art can be. Thank you for sharing, and the memory of the lovely afternoon with your mother.
    And to answer your question: I’m wearing my wedding shoes! They’ll be 12 years old this year and just as comfortable as the day I bought them. And durable, I never actually put the two things together, that these shoes are that old now.

    • leylatorres January 30, 2018, 10:59 am

      Thank you Minet. Yes the magic of art is that we can choose any subject and make it relevant and meaningful in a positive way.
      Thank you for your lovely words and for sharing about your wedding shoes. That’s very special!

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