The Hyper-Realistic Sneaker Illustrations by Steph Morris | Grailify
The Hyper-Realistic Sneaker Illustrations by Steph Morris

The Hyper-Realistic Sneaker Illustrations by Steph Morris

Like many independent creatives, Steph Morris initially dedicated time to her passion projects alongside her regular job. After working as a graphic designer, the British artist put pen to paper to capture sneakers and streetwear pieces with an incredible eye for detail. Since then, the Manchester-born, London-based artist has exhibited her art in venues around the world and lets thousands of viewers experience the process behind these hyper-realistic sneaker illustrations on her Instagram account @stephfmorris.

The first time we took a look at your illustrations in the office, we seriously had to analyse for a few minutes whether they were drawings or real photos. Does that happen to you often when it comes to your work?
Haha, yes! A lot of people say the same thing, which I guess is a compliment....

How did you start illustrating? Is there a piece of art that made a lasting impression on you and made you choose this path for yourself?
Years ago I wanted to hang a Nike Cortez artwork on my wall, and when I couldn't find any images I liked, I decided to try my hand at drawing one myself. It was so much fun and when I posted the picture on my Instagram account, I got so much encouragement that people asked me to draw more.

Are you purely a self-promoter or have you had some kind of training?
I would say more self-taught. I studied illustration at university, but that was something completely different from what I do now. I didn't get into hyperrealism until a few years later when I graduated and was working in a design job. I'm a big advocate of self-exploration - you're your best teacher.

Can you give us an insight into your working process? How long does it usually take to complete one of these very detailed illustrations?
My process is very long, to put it simply. I start by establishing the composition of the subject, that's the first step, and it involves a lot of shooting with my camera. Depending on what I draw, the composition changes. Once I'm happy with the reference photo, I sketch out my layout and start drawing. I start in small sections and try to work solidly until the image is finished. Depending on the size, a piece can take between 5 days and 2 months, which is my longest.

Judging by your Instagram account and portfolio, sneakers obviously play a big role in your life - or at least in your art. Can you remember the first time you got interested in sneakers?
Definitely! I love sneakers and I have from a very young age. Growing up, I wasn't interested in all that girly stuff; you'd see me climbing trees in my broken Reebok Classics. I spent all my pocket money on sneakers - I just always loved them.

What's your current sneaker rotation like?
Sean Wotherspoon AM1/97, Parra AM1, Nike AM95 OG and Versace Chain Reactions.

Interesting compilation! Do you have a favourite model that you particularly like?
I love the Cortez and the AM1.

You can't go wrong with a couple of classics. How did you come to combine your pencil skills on paper with your passion for sneakers?
I'm a firm believer in creating work that you're passionate about, and I've always had a strong interest in shoes and their culture. I drew pairs that I loved and knew I would never get, and I think the more sneakers I drew, the more brands became aware of my work. That's how I managed to work with some great brands like adidas, Nike and Versace.

Is there a certain aesthetic that the shoes you choose for your illustrations have to have? Do you pay attention to certain shapes, constructions or design approaches?
I want each sneaker to stand the test of time, so in a way it has to be its own icon. I love textures, colours, shapes and anything that allows me to capture extra detail. That's when I'm happiest: when working on a complicated piece with so many layers. It's definitely the small details like the stitching or the structure of the laces that bring a piece to life.

Have you ever thought about working on a sneaker collaboration or even designing a new sneaker yourself?
Haha, I've been asked that many times! I would never say no, of course, but I think designing sneakers is a whole different ball game than what I'm doing now. I have so much respect for shoe designers; it definitely requires great talent and creative focus. What I'm doing now is challenging, of course, but it's more monotonous than thinking outside the box, which is what a shoe designer has to do.

Working on your illustrations certainly requires a lot of patience and time, while today's sneaker culture is often quite fast-paced and ever-changing. Have you ever thought about this contrast, or is there even some intention behind it?
It's definitely intentional. The work I do is a snapshot of time in an ever-changing culture. Things move so fast these days that we don't pause to appreciate the beauty of things, and that's something I don't like and try to do as little as possible. My work is a tribute to something I cherish that will undoubtedly be forgotten in a few years, and that's what I do in a nutshell.

Not only do you run a dedicated online shop for Japan, but you've also had a solo exhibition in Tokyo. Do you have a special connection to this country?
The Japanese have always fascinated me! The people and the culture are on another level. They appreciate craftsmanship and the making process in a way that we don't really do here. Their hospitality and appreciation for my work has always touched me. Also, sushi is my favourite food. I can't wait to return!

You have worked with companies like Versace, Nike, adidas Originals, Reebok and many others. Is there something like a favourite project or one that has had a lasting impact on your work?
I would say that working with Versace earlier this year was an absolute career highlight for me. If you had told me that I would work with them one day when I first started, I would have just laughed in your face.

Do you have something like a dream project that you would like to work on sometime in the future, be it a collaboration or something else entirely?
I'm always looking for my style and my theme. I've worked with some great brands on different projects and I'm always looking for new and exciting ideas to work on. I would love to work with other fashion brands - not just shoe brands.

What projects are you working on at the moment? Can you tell us something about them?
At the moment I'm finishing my Nike React project, which was very intense. It's been a long time since I've worked on one piece for so long, so it's a really nice feeling when I finish it. It's the second part of my Details series, where I'm looking at sneakers up close. I'm going to do another piece based on a recent release and I'm sure it will go down well!

I can't wait to see this! Any last words?
Thank you for letting me be a part of it!

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