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Justin Ruby: The New King of Unique Portraiture

I have seen many mediums used over the years, but artist Justin Ruby caught my attention pretty quickly and I wanted to know more about his love of the sneaker culture. I have personally been involved in it for the past few years which all began with collecting pieces from artist Mimi Yoon. Then that opened the door to meeting an entirely new community which is constantly surprising me with an ever growing expansion of creativity. Justin Ruby was one of them.

It was such a pleasure meeting you at AFA Gallery when both King Saladeen and Mister E had their show. I remember you stood out as I saw the back of your jacket was a portrait of A$AP Rocky- and the medium was unique. Something I had not seen ever before- recycled kicks!

The A$AP Rocky Jacket was Maddy’s, mine was Mac Miller. I would say “repurposed” as I create new pieces of art from the kicks.

What was the first piece you ever made using sneaker parts- I believe you deconstructed your very own pair to create it? Was it a portrait? If so- of who?

Yeah it was actually my French Blue 7’s that I had bought from a friend. It was a self portrait. I had originally started it for a college application, but it turned into much more.

My own teen son is learning how to buy and sell kicks. I attended hypefest last year and thought to myself that sneakers were the hottest wearable item ever. Is that what you believe to be true? Is it your love of the sneaker head culture that led you to start working with this medium?

Absolutely. However, the sneaker culture isn’t what it used to be. When I was younger it was less hyped. We wore what we liked and that became our identity. Sneaker culture was huge in south central PA.

Where and how do you collect the different sneaker parts and how do you use them within the fine details of your portraits?

I get this question a lot. Every piece is different. My first collection was my personal sneaker collection. Every sneaker has iconic features. The deconstruction of the sneaker is just as important as the finished product. Not only the way that I decide to take it apart, but the act of deconstruction itself holds significant value.

Do you sketch out where the pieces will be before beginning a portrait or do you just go ahead and create each piece by instinct?

I’m a painter, it’s just that my medium isn’t always paint. When I use sneakers, the piece is prepared just as a painting would be. I draw out my composition, lay in some color values, and the rest is instinct.

Please tell our readers about the Spike Lee piece- you used his sneakers to create it?

Ha ha. So Spike hit me up on Instagram and long story short he ended up sending me four pairs of his own sneakers that he had worn. Most of them have “promo sample” on the tags. So I put this piece together and sent it to Spike. The only reply I got was “Painting” and I never heard from him again. He continues to like my pictures and what not. I’m not sure if he just thought it was a painting or what. In the mean time I haven’t sold the piece, I’ve been showing it.

It seems that a fashion brand should sign you- are you looking to collaborate with any companies in particular? Nike is my guess!

It’s always been a dream of mine since I was a kid to work with a brand like Nike. We have some things in the works with a couple brands at the moment. Nothing solidified yet, but we’ll see.

What is next for you?

We’ve got a lot coming up that I can’t speak on yet. But it won’t disappoint.

Where can our readers learn more about you and your work?

Instagram: @rubysneaks

The photos above were taken at Justin's show at the G-Shock Store in SoHo in April.

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