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THE SWEENEY SPOTLIGHT: MICHAEL STEPHEN CARTER, ILLUSTRATOR

A few months ago, when we spotted Michael’s illustrations on Instagram, we were floored by the result. Hugely-detailed pen-and-ink sketches of a classic Oliver Sweeney wholecut called ‘Vear’, we were captivated as, every few days, more details began to emerge on the drawings as Michael documented his process on social media. Michael is a truly talented artist, so we thought we’d have a chat with him to find out just what makes him tick.

Image courtesy of Michael Stephen Carter

Hi Michael! So where and when did you learn to draw

I have always loved to draw! From a very young age I was praised for my drawing ability, although I always just drew for fun. I studied A-levels in Graphics and Art, which led to a BA in product design at university, all of which contributed to my drawing ability and techniques. Now I work in marketing so my interest is very much in products, brands and the inspirational nature of an object and how people relate to it.

How did you settle on the pen-on-paper technique

I have always drawn on paper, I love the idea of a blank canvas. It sounds simple, but there’s something exciting about drawing with pen too, the permanence of it – especially when I am nearing the end of a 100+ hour piece of work! When I start to draw I select a product, take as many photos as I can of it in multiple stone island volusia county poses, with different lighting to achieve the best representation of the product in a photograph. My technique is then essentially scaling it up, mapping it out, and then starting a long journey of lightly scribbling in small circles, just as you might doodle while sat on the phone. I layer these up on top of each other to achieve a sort of photorealism.

Image courtesy of Michael Stephen Carter

Tell us a little about your preferred drawing tools…

I have always loved drawing with fineliner pens, all the way from my days of graphics and product design, and they are the ideal medium to achieve fine details. When I was searching for a quality paper with texture to carry lots of ink, I stumbled upon Arches 640gsm cold pressed paper which as well as being produced in the same way since 1492 in France, gives a fantastic texture – not too stone island volusia county rough, not too smooth – in which I can layer pen strokes to achieve texture and depth and is able to stand up to me working into it over and over without damaging it.

How big are the drawings that you’ve been making

The Oliver Sweeney shoes I have drawn are 56x76cm, so quite large. I love working on a stone island volusia county large scale, it elevates a small humble object to something which would be quite imposing on a wall or in a gallery. The large scale allows me to bring out the most beautiful part of the shoes, the finer details. The technique is interesting to see in person, up close, because you can see all hours spent, and the detail of the individual pen marks. At a distance the drawing sometimes just looks like a black and white photograph. The large size of the paper allows me to explore all the small beautiful details which make up an Oliver Sweeney shoe.

How long does each one take

Usually around 60-100 hours I would guess, although I have never really timed myself. I typically go through about 5-8 pens per drawing – not because they run out of ink, but because the nib is worn down so fast!

What attracted you to drawing our shoes

Oliver Sweeney is one of my favourite brands. I love the shoes and own 4 pairs of Oliver Sweeney shoes and a pair of trainers too. The shoes I have drawn (the Vear wholecut – of which you can shop a similar version by clicking here), offer a very interesting array of telltale creases, shadows, stretch marks, and loving bumps and bruises from years of use. These details are my favourites to capture – no two pairs of shoes are ever alike, and each pair is made completely unique by their owner.

Do you listen to music while working

I tend to listen to Ben Howard’s ‘I Forget Where We Were’, London Grammar, Coldplay’s ‘Ghost Stories’; anything relaxing really. It’s quite a meditative process sitting scribbling over and over, which is why I enjoy it, so this keeps me going!

Image courtesy of Michael Stephen Carter

Tell us why you’re obsessed with drawing…

I draw because I love it. It’s something I have always loved. I started posting on Instagram because I wanted to see how people would react to my drawings, and I’ve had a wave of positive feedback and enquiries ever since. I have an enormous list of things I plan on drawing next, and I will continue to post work in progress shots on my Instagram account as I go. I have a few commission requests at the moment, but really I draw because I love it. Who knows what the future holds, but to be able to draw full-time would be a dream come true.

Follow Michael’s drawing progress on Instagram by searching @michael.stephen.carter

And if you’re feeling inspired, check out our range of wholecut shoes, in-store or online.