Salvatore Marcum is not a traditional artist. One could say his work is for the sole. Marcum's medium is painting. His canvas? A pair of shoes.
The 27-year-old artist from south Minneapolis creates wearable art in the form of hand-painted sneakers.
As a kid, Marcum was always making art, coloring, doodling and drawing his favorite rappers and athletes. He says he first got interested in sneaker customization in the fourth grade after learning the art from his brother.
"That's pretty much when I picked it up … destroying shoes. Like, I didn't even know what I was doing, just ruining shoes," he told the Minnesota Daily.
The first set was a pair of all-black, high-top Nike Air Force 1s. He added a gray and black camo design.
After that, growing up got in the way. Between sports, school and work, Marcum ended up taking a 10-year break from painting to focus on other things. It wasn't until 2015, after seeing a Facebook group where people were selling customized shoes, that he picked up his old hobby.
Fans in high places
Since then, he's been pursuing custom shoes full time. And he's made quite a name for himself. On Instagram, Marcum has amassed more than 30,000 followers and a client list that includes athletes from the NFL, NBA, WNBA and NCAA.
His work has earned him some local stardom, according to his fiancée, Idalis Poro.
"Oh he definitely has fans, like anywhere we go there's always somebody that comes up to us and is recognizing him for what he does," she said.
He also customized a pair of sneakers for world-champion boxer Floyd Mayweather's 40th birthday. It's fair to say Marcum has come a long way since he doodled on some Air Force 1s. Recently, he spent two weeks customizing 55 pairs of cleats for the Minnesota Vikings as a part of the NFL's "My Cause My Cleats" campaign. When he talks about his accomplishments, Marcum says that in a way, he's made his childhood dream come true.
"When I was little I wanted to play sports, and my grandma would tell me, 'Don't worry, you'll be in a stadium one day,' and now it's happening, but in a different way," he said.
Marcum's skills are in high demand. The wait time to get a pair customized by him can be anywhere from four to nine weeks.
Busy schedule, big dreams
He's also a brand-new dad; his first child was born less than a month ago. Somehow he hasn't let his busy schedule get in the way of his ambitions. Between new ideas for shoes and expansion into the traditional retail market, Marcum hopes to one day expand his business beyond sneakers. He wants to open a storefront, where he can have face-to-face interactions with his customers and perhaps start his own brand.
Regardless of what happens on the business side of things, Marcum says he prides himself on creating work that inspires others.
"If I can make someone else pick up a paintbrush, or pick up a sewing machine, or anything to design something, I've done my part," Marcum said.