IDYSM: Hey STEPH, thanks so much for taking the time to do this. Please set the scene for us; where are you as we do this?
STEPH: Currently I’m at my desk in my bedroom. I’ve just eaten a magnificent dish of spaghetti bolognese for dinner and have cracked open a beer in preparation of this evening’s drawing I’m about to get straight into after this interview.
IDYSM: Please tell us about your background, and how you developed an interest in art?
STEPH: It was going to go one of either two ways; sport or art. When I was little you’d find me kicking around a football or playing out until it went dark on my bike/skateboard/go-kart. You couldn’t keep me sat down and I showed a keen competitive streak which I certainly get from my mother. After playing out I’d go sit in my bed and draw faces from magazines for hours on end. Repeat that every day and it was pretty much my childhood. To cut a long story short, I got injured playing football when I was around 15 and after 3 knee surgeries had to sack off what I thought was going to be a career PE teaching. I sorta had a mid-life crisis at the age of 18 when I dropped out of Uni where I was studying Sports Therapy. I fell out of love with sport and looked for the next best thing to replace the void. I picked up my pencils and went back to Art school and here I am today!
IDYSM: What type of work appeals to you, and what characterises your own work?
STEPH: My favourite artist is Francis Bacon. His work and character have always fascinated me and still do to this day. What appeals to me is pure graft and passion – mix those two together and hands down you’ll gain my respect. This can take any form, I’m not just talking about art. Too many times these days I see a vectorised shoe which someone has traced on Illustrator, then they want to sell prints out of it. Like really? Where’s the originality? If that’s what you dig then that’s cool, but I much prefer a piece of someone’s talent to hang on my wall, something that they’ve gone through a careful process to get create. I guess what characterises my own work is the level of detail that goes into it. People often say to me how do you make it look so real? – but the simple answer is a shoe doesn’t have just one layer, one colour or one tone; it’s made up of many intricate details like the shadowing, the stitching on the toe box or the curves on the midsole.
IDYSM: When technology plays such a key role in modern society, why the fascination with traditional materials?
STEPH: I’m actually a designer by day, so coming home from work and switching from digital to hand-draw is soothingly refreshing. But I guess it’s what I’ve always know and felt comfortable with. There’s something so therapeutic about picking up a pencil and just drawing. When you look at the clock and realise three hours have flown by, its a powerful reminder to myself that I genuinely get lost in something which I adore.
IDYSM: Why the fascination with footwear, sneaker culture and football?
STEPH: I’ve always loved footwear ever since being able to spend my pocket money on pairs. I was the kid bringing them to school in a bag and putting them on the second I got out at the end of the day. Now it’s just evolved into a more grown up version. And I guess that sneaker culture has embraced me because of what I do, but honestly I’m pretty much a lone wolf out here doing my own thing. I don’t have clicks and I don’t know that many people, which is how I like it.
IDYSM: How do you pick a subject to work on?
STEPH: I just draw what I like. When I heard the More Uptempo was gonna be re-released later this year, it took me back to buying a fake pair in a dodgy leather shop when I was 7 or 8 on a family holiday in Spain, then the devastation I felt when the tongue snapped and fell out hours after. It still lives with me to this day haha. But I loved those shoes so I had to draw them. Each pair I draw is pretty much the same or will resonate with me in some way.
IDYSM: Once you have a subject, what’s your creative process?
STEPH: Once I’ve decided on what I’m drawing, I usually go into my own zone for the next 5 hours. I’ll get the laydown right with rough lines, slowly building up as I go along. I usually start from the heel across to the toe-box depending on the shoe then it’s just a case of using between 5-8 pencils to create what I see. I have to take breaks as after 5 solid hours of drawing I start to feel myself going slightly crazy so coffee and a stretch of the legs is welcome.
IDYSM: How long does each piece take to create, and what goes into your work?
STEPH: On average about 20-25 hours. It’s a really slow process but in a way that’s why I love it. If I turned these things around in 5 hours they would look terrible, I like to capture the entire shoe and every single detail. It’s purely just hour upon hour of layering with different pencils.
IDYSM: Your work champions a real sense of craft, do you feel that this is a poignant contrast to the waves of product being dropped these days which get lost as soon as something newer comes along?
STEPH: I think that’s why people like my work, it’s paying homage to a little piece of history which you can hang on your wall. Every time you see that piece of work, you may get taken back to a memory or a feeling you have with that shoe. It’s kinda cool to celebrate footwear in this way, especially if you and footwear are best friends like me. Fashion trends are born and die within the same week it feels like sometimes, so that’s why I enjoy what I do because sometimes it’s nice to get out of the fast-paced lifestyle and actually spend more time doing what you enjoy.
IDYSM: Your love of intricate detail is a key signature of your work, do you feel that in the pace of modern society this kind of detail can be missed in the product itself?
STEPH: At times yes. Sometimes it’s annoying when people just look at my work as ‘photographs’. I’m not trying to create a hyper-realistic shoe, I’m creating a hand-drawn representation of what I see and some can’t differentiate the two. I guess it’s cool when people THINK it’s a hyper realistic shoe but I always try and capture an organic process in my work which starts and ends on the paper. No fancy tools; just pencils and my right hand.
IDYSM: You’re based in Manchester which has a hugely influential sense of style, how much of an influence do these surroundings play in your work?
STEPH: Manchester has played a massive role in me doing what I do. Everything is connected here. My ideas, inspiration and love for what I do stem from being in a city like Manchester. The people here are great, everyone is striving to be something but it isn’t a rat race. The support I’ve received here is something I’ll always be thankful for and I’m super proud to represent Manchester.
IDYSM: If one piece of footwear was to represent you and your work, what would it be and why?
STEPH: So difficult but great question! I’d have to say the Cortez. Aside from being my favourite shoe, it was the first footwear piece I ever drew and what inspired me from the beginning. I originally drew this to put on my bedroom wall when I couldn’t find anything to buy – but people took to it really well. Who knows where I’d be if I didn’t get round to drawing it.
IDYSM: What does the future hold for you and your work?
STEPH: Well I’ve got my first solo exhibition coming up this month at Fred Segal Tokyo which is completely surreal. I’m super excited for that and hopefully I can explore a little more of Asia and see how my work is received over there. Aside from that, I will continue to draw and do lots of personal projects and make sure that I’m pushing myself to get better each day.
IDYSM: It’s time to ask the time old question that I end all ‘In Their Shoes’ interviews with; what’s on your feet right now?
STEPH: I’ve not got any on! But today I was wearing my SK8 Hi Vans, a staple of my wardrobe.
Follow Steph and her work via Instagram; @stephfmorris
Images courtesy of Robbie Jay Barratt