This week we touch base with Billy Hobbs, better known to the custom sneaker world as Lexington, Kentucky-based True Blue Customs. Billy's work is always eye catching and crisp, and finds it was on to the feet of some big name clientele. He was kind enough to do a quick Q&A with us, so if you need some inspiration or looking for solid advice from one of the greats, check it out.
Can you give us a little about your background and how you got into art?
"Well, growing up I was always into art. Drawing mostly, I loved doing portrait work. I'd draw for hours as a kid, shoes, cars, people, whatever. I Didn't get into much paint work till after I was a little older, in the real world working in a custom autobody shop. I began to play with an airbrush a little, doing minor artwork on whatever I could get my hands on."
What are some of your main creative inspirations?
"I really love doing theme shoes, something that lets me get a little creative. Basic color changes are okay, but when a client gives you a nice theme and allows you to really get crazy, it's a lot of fun. I draw inspiration from everywhere, other artists, TV commercials, etc. You'd be surprised where you can find great ideas and inspiration."
Your custom sneakers are always incredibly detailed and vibrant. What's your go-to for tools—airbrush, straight up paint, combination of both?
"I do a combination of hand painting and airbrush work. I really dig breaking out the fine brushes for detail work."
While sneaker customizing is as popular as ever, customizing cleats is picking traction as well, how did you get into cleats?
"A couple years ago I was contacted by Jerome Williams, from the Phillies at the time. He wanted several pairs of cleats for the season, everything from a tribute to his mother, to a desert camo pair. From there, I gradually built up a clientele of about 30 major/minor leaguers. Mainly by word of mouth, and of course shoutouts by some specialty pages on IG geared towards baseball players."
What's it like switching between customizing sneakers, cleats, skateboards, there was even a helmet in there. Does painting on different canvases challenge you to use different types of creativity?
"It's a little challenging, every canvas is its own animal. From prep work, to the finisher, they are all a little different, but it's nice to do different things every once in awhile."
For those with a keen eye, they might see some of your clients out on the diamond. How does doing work for clientele, affect the overall creative process?
"Every client is different, some guys know exactly what they want,color placement, logos, design work, the whole deal. Others need a little guidance in determining what will be practical, and the look they are going for. Then you have the guys, that say 'I trust you, just do your thing.' I try to accommodate any client request as we begin the process."
Your custom work is definitely a go-to for inspiration. How did you turn customizing into a business?
"I had done it off and on since the early 2000's, but got serious as a hobby about 3 years ago, I started doing restorations and a few smaller customs for some local guys. I ended up doing a pair for Willie Cauley Stein of the Kings, then the Kentucky Wildcats. It was a pair of gold XI's, with a blue sole, blue accents. He wore them in the NCAA tourney 2 years ago, and the shoes ended up all over the place, IG pages, sneaker blogs, Twitter.
It was crazy for a few days after that. That pair kinda got the ball rolling and got my name out there. About a year ago, I sat down and looked at where I was headed with this hobby and took a leap of faith, and the rest is history. It's not everyday you can do what you love for a living."
Lastly, any advice for the young customizers out there getting started?
"Practice, practice, practice. There are a lot of cats out there in the game just looking to cash out and take people's money. Don't be that guy, put your heart and soul into each pair you do, and push yourself to get better. If you genuinely love the art, it'll make you a better artist."
There it is! True Blue Customs is the real deal when it comes to a fully-functioning custom business. Be sure to check out Billy's page for more.