Sneaker art is always prone to be “hype material”, especially when the imagery speaks the right language. In the past few years, the artist “Kwills” has been delivering some perfect examples for this phenomenon. And while his work appeals to the sneaker crowd, the soft-spoken Dutch remains a down-to-earth and authentic character. Please meet “Q”, one of the finest minds in our world of art whose newest t-shirt collab involves a well-known sneaker magazine …
Kwills x Sneakers
Hi Q, can you please give us a small introduction?
Yes, of course. My name is Quincy Renon, most people know me by “Q” or “Kwills”. I’m 38 years of age and living with my wife and cats near Roermond in the Netherlands.
How and when did the “shoe thing” start for you?
The whole collecting started somewhere around 1998-1999 when I was researching a pair of Air Max II 1996 I bought for cheap. I came across Sneaker Freaker in Australia and everyone on the forum was pretty cool and gave me some good information about the shoes. One thing lead to another. I started to learn about the background information and concepts of different shoes at a time when special releases weren’t as big as now. It felt like a little family and the whole thing quickly developed into more.
We are living in an age of hype and your art is part of it. What’s your personal opinion on that?
To a certain extent, hype is good because it focuses on my art or a certain release, so people will know about it in advance. Only in this day and age a lot of people jump on every release available, whether it’s for reselling purposes or just to quickly add to their show-off collection without considering whether they personally like the shoe or not. Some think that a huge quantity of hype releases bought within a few months defines being a “sneaker head”, but they’re sadly mistaken. I do know people who have an extensive amount of shoes but they accumulated them over a substantial amount of years. They put in the hard work of hunting for a specific shoe they really like and, if it’s possible due to its age, wear the shoes to enjoy them – those people I have a huge amount of respect for.
Where do you see the connection between art and sneaker?
Every sneaker or shoe starts with a sketch in which certain ideas and concepts are explored and researched to search for the perfect form and function. So the connection is automatic. I personally love seeing original sketches and notes scribbled down because they give insight into minds like Tinker Hatfield, Dylan Raasch or Jacques Chassaing. When the sketches aren’t available, shoes have certain lines, a flow and a layering of elements that is challenging to draw for me. Also let’s not forget that the first graffiti-pieces had characters with sneakers on. So the bond between sneakers and graffiti and, in the bigger scheme of things, Hip-Hop is inseparable. Everybody remembers the Suedes and Superstars on a Rock Steady album cover.
Did you study art or are you self-taught?
I did study Illustrational Design and I’m to this day still learning new things – so I’d say it’s both. As a child, you learn drawing from observing and when you learn to read, it’s mostly through pictures, so it gets embedded in you. In my case I developed a love for comics and cartoons with their own dynamics. I wanted to be able to do that too, so I kept drawing. At age 13, I got heavily into skateboarding and the inspiration from skateboard graphics inspire me to this day.
What are the tools of your trade? Sketchbook and pencil or iPad?
Say what, people start to sketch on iPads? Heard that one before, still amazes me how they can handle that. No, I’m an analogue type of guy, I need to sketch with a pencil or pen in a blackbook/sketchbook. It’s still the cheapest method of working, you can find a pen and paper everywhere, try that with a dead iPad with no means of recharging. Plus, with a sketchbook I have my own art books which look good in my bookcase. I do use Photoshop and Illustrator, but I use them as a tool same as i would use a paint marker. Believe me, nothing beats working with a pen or marker on paper.
What are some of the most inspiring and interesting shoe designs for you as an artist?
I love shoes that have a lot going on like different layering, textures or elements. The more technical it looks, the better, it just adds to the challenge. The Huarache is a good example with the heelstrap and the Huarache light has great flow. I loved drawing the Puma Disc Blaze, there’s a chunkiness but also a great flow to that shoe. Although the cleaner a shoe looks, the more difficult it is to capture its form and shape which is in itself a challenge too.
You are not only an illustrator but also a collector of shoes. What are your three all time faves?
The first two are hands down the easiest: 1. Nike Air Max 1994 purple/punch. 2. Nike Air Jordan 6 bred 1999. The third one is difficult, I love the Puma Disc Blaze, the adidas ZX8000, Asics GT-II, Puma Clyde, Nike Roshe Run, the Presto, the Current, Airwalk VICs, Etnies SLB2 – so many to name. I think I’d have to go for the Nike Air Presto as the third all time fave.
And if it’s about drawing shoes?
I’ve drawn a lot of Air Max 1s but those are not in the top three. The Puma Disc Blaze, the Nike Air Footscape Motion and Asics Gel Lyte 3 “Woei” were the most fun to draw.
You are famous for sketching and illustrating shoes. What do you think about stepping into the shoe industry and creating new styles? Never thought about that?
It is definitely an ambition to work on a shoe. I would love to get involved with that. I have a certain model in mind, which I would tweak the hell out to give it a more luxurious yet rugged look. But if some certain companies would come up to me right now to do a shoe with, I would not turn that opportunity down.
Could you tell us something about future projects? Any collaborations planned?
Yes –at the moment I’m working on a collaboration with you guys, Sneakers Magazine/Store for a vintage shirt series, consisting of six designs. Next to thtat I’m working on two items for the Calico Jack capsule collection, a limited skateboard design with a Dutch skate store and when I find the time, I try to work on new things for the Quebec Project, which is a personal project including caps, shirts and accessories I can’t do under the Kwills name. Plenty of things to do!
Quebec Project and two of 6 Kwills x Sneakers “Vintage Series” designs coming soon in our store!