The wholecut hand painting is an experiment on how we can do custom finishes that can be comparable to quality hand finished shoes from Europe. It is actually a simple process which I have learned from watching sneakerheads modify their kicks then applying local techniques of shoe paint repair to create our own brand of color finish for our wholecut shoes.
Well the answer is actually simple: the wholecut shoe, being just one piece of leather for the upper, presents itself as a blank canvas for which we can work with in creating seamless patterns and drawings. This is ideal in that it creates depth for the shoe and gives it much more personality. The seamless shoe leaves a lot for the finishes to create a truly unique pair. There are also two types of wholecut shoes to choose from, the oxford wholecut and the loafer wholecut. Both can be used by men and women depending on the shoe last.
Various types of finishes can be applied to the wholecut handpainted. The most basic being the patina finish created by brushing leather paint lightly layer upon layer until the desired color is achieved. Airbrush can be used to soften the edges creating a more blended patina. This is one of the more unique styles of work since no two pairs will ever be the same.
Another style is to use the shoe as a blank canvas to paint scene or characters on the shoe. This style can be done in 2 ways, first is to paint on the shoes before they get lasted and the second is to paint on it after the shoes are lasted and is due for finishing. The first method is ideal if you have a stencil and if you want the two pairs to be similar.
It would require the outlines to be transferred onto the leather before lasting then finished with paint before waxing. This ensures that the pair will be uniform in terms of design with only a slight variance in color. The second method requires a more creative approach since the pair will be blank and the design will be done on the fly. This is good if you want to create a totally unique pair with a different design per foot. Personally I use the second method since it is more spontaneous and fun.
I have seen many implementations of hand painted shoes but mostly for casual pairs. Formal customs can also have paintings but it has to be kept clean and sophisticated so it would fit the occasion. For this I would imagine drawing something on the side of the shoe as an accent. Normally an outline of the subject would do so as not to be too loud. We can also opt have patterns drawn instead of characters. It all depends on the implementation if the shoes will come out tacky or sophisticated. This is why the eye of the artist will be vital to the outcome of the pair.
Just remember, hand painted shoes are craft shoes. The wearer has to be really careful against scuffing since the leather paint (even if the artist uses permanent markers) is only attached onto the surface of the leather. If the surface gets scuffed, the first thing to go is the paint. Also if and when the shoes get wet, pat dry with an absorbent material immediately. Resist the temptation to wipe the liquid off. It may cause the paint to run if there isn’t enough wax and if the liquid has seeped into the leather.