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My painted shoes

Another of my distinctive features is my shoes. I paint them. For several years now, I have worn canvas Converse All-Stars, painted with many-colored acrylics. Apparently, one can also paint leather, but the procedure is more involved. Here I catalog the various shoes I've painted, with pictures when available.

Rainbows. (January 2008; Berkeley, CA). A series of rainbows against a sky. This was painted with fabric paint and a spray-on Krylon fixative. As you look through this gallery, you'll notice several commonalities: (a) all the designs are multicolored, because I like colors, and (b) all of the designs are simple and geometric, because I don't have any actual painting skill. In the interim between this and the black polka dot shoes (see below), I wore other interesting Converse designs, but those were pre-made rather than self-painted.

Black polka dots. (March 2006; Amherst, MA). I returned to a classic design (see below), with a twist. Bright dots on black canvas came out quick striking, I think, and hopefully the black will show less dirt than my white pair did. Priming with white paint was important to make the colors come out bright. I did not prime the pink, however, and I'm happy with the effect. It did take several coats to get a good pink. I also applied several coats of varnish; we'll see if that improves its durability.

Space. (Summer 2005; Amherst, MA). This time I decided to try a less abstract design. Well, really, I had a tough time finding white shoes, so I chose blue instead, and this motivated me to do a space theme. This is the first pair of shoes for which I actually (gasp) mixed paint together to achieve a different color. I suppose they must be subtle, because while I enjoy them, I've never received any comments on them. I also went for the puffy glitter paint, in what I like to think of as the "thirteen year-old girl" aesthetic. I tried cheap glow-in-the-dark acrylic as well, but I couldn't get it to work. My favorite part of these shoes is the asteriod crashing into Earth. What does that say about my current mental state?

Polka dots. (Summer 2004; Amherst, MA and Lancaster, PA). Oneof my most successful designs. Simple, but festive, with a touch of elegance. I often received complements from strangers, including many from attractive women. Somehow, I never figured out how to segue from "Oh, I like your shoes!" to "Thanks! By the way, what's your phone number?" The only disadvantage of these shoes are that they contain a large area of unpainted white canvas, which quickly became dirty.

Haitus. At this point, I stopped painting shoes for a while. I bought several pair that I meant to paint, but I was never inspired with a design, so I left them bare.

Hearts. (mid 2000; Austin, TX). I painted a pair of shoes with flowers and hearts for my (then-) girlfriend. This woman is distinct from the camouflage-shoe-inspiring one, who at the time was actually... well, never mind. Anyway, someday I'll bug my ex to see if she has a picture of these shoes. Or, more likely, someday she'll see this page and send one along herself.

Camouflage. (mid-January 2000; Austin, TX). A friend of mine from Austin is colorblind, and therefore dresses in loud colors. In honor of her, I painted a pair of shoes in camouflage, where the patches are in such hard-to-spot colors as bright red, blue, and green—camouflage designed for her sock drawer. I kept the shoes for myself, however.

Rainbow stripes (early 1999; Salisbury, MD). My first painted pair of shoes were thick rainbow stripes. I painted them while on break from college; I don't remember why. At my alma mater, a storied tradition is the Shoe Tree. This is a tree next to one of the dorms where people hang old shoes. I've heard different stories about what events are are momentous enough to merit hanging one's shoes in the tree. I believe that graduation counts, but the rest are best discussed privately between consenting adults. I was sorely tempted to leave these shoes there after I graduated, but I'm sentimental, and I didn't want to part with them.

Methodology. I just use standard acrylics. They stay on very well, but they do tend to fade over time. For the past couple of pair, I used a Krylon spray to coat it. I can't tell if that is helping or not. For the black polka dots, I tried a polyurethane varnish for the first time, so we'll see if that helps. Suggestions for sealing are always welcome. Some people do canvas floor coverings, which I assume would be similar, but I don't know much about them.

Future possibilities. Something about cats, maybe? That would tax my painting skill too sorely, I fear.

If you can't get enough of painted shoes, may I also suggest this fine shoe gallery. Otherwise, you may return to al.oysi.us.

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