From Inspiration to Creation

Diving Into the Custom Shoe World With Shimano 

Shimano GE7 mountain bike shoes Custom painted Jill Kintner

Olympic bronze medalist and multi time World Champion, Jill Kintner is no stranger to the podium. For the past couple decades Kintner has been collecting hardware across 4x, Slalom, BMX, DH, and Enduro disciplines of cycling, and is one of USA’s most decorated athletes.

But decorating her trophy case is not where her talents end. In more recent years, Kintner’s knack as an illustrator and artist have surfaced more and more, and she even brought all her favorite illustrated characters to life in the short film, Bandit Hill.

Shimano mountain bike athlete Jill Kintner

With the introduction of Shimano’s new Gravity MTB footwear series, Kintner jumped at the opportunity to take her illustration skills to a 3D canvas. Curious to learn more about her artistic side, we ask Kintner a few questions to learn more about her creative process and inspirations.

Shimano: Have illustration and art always been a creative outlet for you or how did it develop into one of your passions?

Kintner: Yes, I have always loved to draw ideas and make things with my hands. As a kid I did a lot of art projects, origami, mini clay sculptures, jewelry, etc. My dad had a woodshop and was a tile contractor, so he used to also sketch out plans to build something beautiful. Drawing for me is just an easier way to explain and organize things to make them a reality, I guess.

Shimano: Where do you draw inspiration for your artwork?

Kintner: I’d say from nature and other artists, but it can come anytime, anywhere. Good design inspires me so much, as well as simplicity with a bit of humor.

Shimano MTB athlete Jill Kintner's art work

Shimano: What is your favorite medium to work with?

Kintner: Probably pens into digital.

Jill Kintner's Custom painted Shimano GE7 shoes and art work

Shimano: What is your creative process like?

Kintner: My process is slow, but I am getting better at finding a direction. The first step is always creating an inspiration board, then drawing tiny thumbnails so I don’t indulge with details too early. Small thumbnails deliver the best compositions, usually, which I learned from designer Aaron Draplin in a Skillshare class.

Once I have a few decent layouts, I’ll redraw them slightly bigger, take a photo of the best ones, and import them into Procreate on my iPad. Sketching is loose and messy for me, so once I get digital, I can polish it up by adding layers to trace over lines, add color or texture, or try things out without risk. Then, I like to print stuff, look at it, and eventually put it in my sketchbook, which feels like full circle completion.

Shimano: Recently, you’ve been getting into customizing some of your MTB footwear. How did that idea come about?

Kintner: Steve Blick [Shimano MTB Sports Marketing] sent me some paint pens with the first sample of these new shoes and a little note saying he was excited to see what I could do with them. After messing around on some old shoes, I quickly realized there was a lot more to it, which sent me deep down the rabbit hole of custom sneaker tutorials on YouTube. 

jill kintner's custom painted ge7 mtb shoes

Shimano: What was the learning process like getting into customizing something 3D like a shoe? Not a lot of room for error or practice when you take an idea to the “canvas.”

Kintner: Yeah, a lot of prep work goes into it before you ever touch a canvas. I knew from my animation project a couple of years ago that I would need a 360 design of the shoe, so I took pictures from all angles and built a template to mockup designs. I wanted the shoes to have the essence of my style, but not be overly complicated.

Jill Kintner custom painting her Shimano GE7 MTB shoes

Shimano: In your research, what styles, trends, and other artists from the sneaker world did you find interesting?

Kintner: I appreciate lot of different styles but for this project gravitated towards the 2D cartoon shoes with basic color blocks, lines, and shadows. I thought those were fun and simple but made you look twice. I also loved Neon sign inspired shoes that Adam Fujita painted on some Nike Dunk hi-tops. I’d rock those, just thought they were also pretty fun and simple, but look good far away.

Shimano: Do you have any tips for other riders and artists on customizing their own gear?

Kintner: Yeah, I’d say prepping the surface made the biggest difference in quality as well as getting the right supplies. I wasted time with the wrong pens and found Posca to be the best brand paired with anything Angelus.

Angelus has good gear like kits, tapes, brushes, paints, finishes, and numerous color options, so I’d say start there. Likely, I would have been modifying shoes long ago had I known how easy it is. It seems like once you have the right tools anything is possible, and it’s thrilling to see an idea come to life like this. 

Jill Kintner’s custom shoes will be on display at Shimano’s Booth (R54) during this year’s Sea Otter Classic happening April 18-21, 2024. Come see her creation live in-person and if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even run into Kintner herself.

Want to win your own pair of Shimano shoes and art supplies?

Shimano will also be hosting an in-person raffle at the event for one lucky winner to take home their own art supplies and Shimano MTB shoes to customize themselves!

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