Elemental Footwear | Skillshare Projects

Matthew Renzi

Strange, but not a stranger.



Elemental Footwear

As I began developing my word-web for various emotions, several of my linked ideas evolved into more tangible references. In doing so, I came up with the idea that instead of creating four emotions, I would recreate the four elements (earth, fire, air, water) as an emotional basis for rendering a single illustration across different palettes to generate four "emotional experiences" from a single object.

Some initial words that came to mind:

FIRE: passion, heat, warm, flame, burn, singe, cook, Hades, lava, anger, hate, evil, phoenix, marshmallows

AIR: light, breeze, fresh, scent, dust, optimism, hope, butterfly, float, sky, clouds, birds, freedom

WATER: ocean, blue, waves, surfing, fish, boat, hydration, nourishment, refresh, facewash, ice, glacier, rain, snow, rivers, creeks, valleys

EARTH: leaves, soil, green, shrubs, mudslide, trees, forest, growth, squirrels, leaves, silence, mountains, rocks


Took a dive into some Communication Arts books, explored several blogs / design sites online, and even began putting a Pinterest board together for future reference (something I have been meaning to do for some time now—thanks for the motivation!).

Taking a Walk in Someone's Shoes:

As a result, I decided a shoe would be a great object for this exercise. Relatively simple, yet expressive, with a need for a strong palette to create depth, feeling, and clarity / legibility (without being muddy) among a variety of hues. After searching around multiple styles of shoes, I discovered the perfect skateboarding shoe—different fabrics, textures, protrusions, etc.—that lends well to the goals of this project. And with a static object like a shoe, I think it lends well that viewers should be able to "experience" the visual from his or her own emotional standpoint—like Abstract Expressionism was to Pollack.

Playing with Fire

Getting started, I put together a shoe that represents "fire." After creating the illustration, I used your advice and pulled the layered Illustrator file into Photoshop and used brushes to add visual depth, I found the multiply / screen layer features were an effective trick in maintaining a consistent palette. In the past, I've used colors that were close, but not always precise—this suggested approach certainly appears much cleaner and organized. Thanks for the tip! Not to mention that pairing the layers together before importing into Photoshop was a huge help once the brush strokes started flying.

Green Thumb

"Earth" could go a lot of ways. After expanding my word web, I thought the best approach to take for this option was a more primal, dull, beginning-of-time feel. Where everything is a bit toned down and whereby each color has a hint of brown in it. This palette is a Frankenstein of movie posters, designs discovered on www.designspiration.net, and swatch combinations found on www.colourlovers.com.


More than a Breeze

Finding a color palette for air was a bit less obvious than both earth and fire. I wanted something that was light, free, open, and colors that were designed (more or less) with a similar saturation. Air, after all, comes and goes most of the time without us noticing. So, I wanted the contrast toned down more so than the previous two. And unlike the other elements, air is not a tangible object, which opened up a whole range of ideas. With the selected palette below, the colors were meant to reflect a sense of freedom, but also optimism—something like spring cleaning where you're opening the windows for the first time after a long winter, where your living room is silently refreshed and you know that the breeze is carrying something new and promising with it.

Water, Water Everywhere! And Every Chance to Sink!

Last, but not least: water. At first, I thought this option would be a bit more straightforward than the others, considering the most obvious solution would be to work with an analogous palette. Problem is, with so many colors incorporated, the contrast can easily be muddied. After discovering some blue-themed illustrations in Communication Arts, I started toying around with some deeper hues. And in searching on Pinterest, came across some strictly blue design boards—quite a source of inspiration! The concept below was meant to reflect a peaceful serenity represented by light waves when floating on a boat with no end destination in mind. And, similar to air, I wanted to tone down the contrast as the color of waves tend to "float" into one another.


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