Tokyo-based artist Daniel Pierce is disciplined in multimedia but boredom with a pair of old Vans helped him discover a new niche for his artistic skills. Daniel’s custom painted shoes are becoming highly coveted items, both for their uniqueness and their attention to details. Vanichi dives into his creative process, thoughts on the importance of self-promotion in the digital age and the growth that results from leaving one’s comfort zone.

Artistic medium: Illustration, Painting, Drawing, Sculpting, Digital Media

Years in Art: Daniel states, “I’m pretty sure I was using my mother’s womb as a canvas…”

Favorite Quote:

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. Albert Schweitzer


[Q] What is your artistic process?

As all of my shoes are custom made to order, the first step is the idea. After browsing through my portfolio, customers will send me an idea of what he/she wants, in what style, and what type of shoes they want. Usually they give me artistic freedom, which is pretty much every artist’s wet dream and one of the reasons I love doing what I do. I then pick up the shoes, take a picture of them, and after lots of researching and browsing art sites for inspiration, I’ll create a mock-up on the shoes using Photoshop. The customer can then request any changes they want. After they are satisfied with the design, I mask the shoes, do a quick pencil sketch on the shoes and then start painting!

[Q] What advice do you have for aspiring artists looking to break into your area of the industry?

This tip is not only intended for artists in my area of the industry, but for all aspiring creatives, no matter what the genre. In the world of art/design/ fashion, talent doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know how to show people that talent. You can paint or draw or write until your fingers bleed, but unless you learn how to sell yourself, all that blood will be for naught. In college I learned to how to improve my artistic skills, and new ways to express myself, but the one thing I wish I had learned more of, was how to market myself. My advice is this. Make a portfolio site. Hell, make two. Social media sites are mainstream on the internet. Take advantage of those. I started my business with a simple post on Facebook and it’s the primary reason I’ve gotten so many orders. Sign up for Reddit and Twitter and Deviantart. In this world, it’s all about who you know, and the more people you know and market to, the better off your business will be. Good luck!

[Q] Can you remember the first piece of art you created? What makes it memorable?

[column size=one_third position=first ]”The hands are just the tools we use to create, and unfortunately, like any tool, they’re not always as sharp as we want them to be“[/column]

I remember it quite fondly actually! I was around 7 years old and I had just finished watching Disney’s Robin Hood and Little John. I drew a picture of the main character off the VHS case. When I showed my parents, their response was, “Oh good honey! Now try to draw it without tracing.” I told them I didn’t trace it and had to draw it again to prove it. But, the main reason I remember it so well is kind of embarrassing. My mother turned the paper over and discovered some of my “secret” doodles I had done of what must have been very poorly proportioned female anatomy. Years later, I’m happy to say that I can now draw much more proportioned anatomy thanks to art school and I don’t have to be embarrassed about it.


Two pairs of TOMS shoes with Japanese scenic imagery custom painted by Daniel Pierce.

[Q] Have you ever ventured from your comfort zone into a new genre of art? How did it go?

[column size=one_third position=first ]”the one thing I wish I had learned more of, was how to market myself“[/column]

Yes, and that’s actually how I got into doing custom painted shoes! I went to school for digital illustration thinking that was the only way I would be able to get a job in our technology driven society. I had been using Photoshop and a Wacom tablet (which I still love to use) to do digital illustrations. A few years ago, while browsing through a craft store, I saw some fabric paint markers and it kind of inspired me. I had an old pair of vans sitting in my closet and decided they were pretty boring so I painted some tigers on them and posted them on Facebook. I got a lot of positive feedback and many of my friends asked if I do requests and offered to pay me to paint their shoes. I bought some acrylic paints and some brushes and I’ve been painting custom shoes ever since!

[Q] What, in your opinion, is the hardest step in creating a masterpiece?

I think I speak for a lot of artists when I say this, the most challenging aspect of creating art is the first step. Just getting started on a painting is like running up a wall. So many ideas are running through your head and you know what you want to appear on the page, (or in my case, shoes) but transferring the images from your head onto the paper or canvas is much harder than people think. The hands are just the tools we use to create, and unfortunately, like any tool, they’re not always as sharp as we want them to be.

Art almost never turns out the way you originally planned for, but that to me is what makes it so interesting.


Artist Daniel Pierce. Photo Credit