Skip to main content
  • Help


What began with switching out laces and coloring logos to add accents to sneakers has paved the way for footwear to become not only a canvas for expression, but a vehicle to reach your goals. For fine artist Julian Gaines, who is also known as Ju Working on Projects, that dream is to work on Nike product – with the triple white Air Force 1 the natural vehicle for his inspiration. His life-long connection to Nike and the Swoosh changed forever after a last-minute trip to ComplexCon in 2016 where the Nike team took notice of his work.

“I had a bomber I painted, some jeans, and my G-Fazos. They saw the jacket and were like, 'Man, who made your jacket?'". I said, "I did," he shares. “He had on these AF-1s with a 'Black Lives Matter' strap and I had never seen those before. Then something snapped in my mind, like 'Can I paint on your shoes?’". This intuition by the artist in Ju would pave the way for all his recent work on the Air Force 1. Julian's love for the Swoosh would grow even deeper after the life-shifting moment at ComplexCon. From then on, he continued to use the Air Force 1 as his canvas, adding his own unique take on the Nike Swoosh.
His take on the Swoosh is done with respect, and with the understanding that the Swoosh does not need to be touched. "I want people to see this Swoosh and know that I'm not trying to recreate the wheel", he expressed. "The Swoosh is perfect. It's the sign of victory and my middle name is Victor." Slightly off-center, his Swoosh design represents his idea of working around the place and brand he loves.

For Julian, this is not custom work or just another painted sneaker. This is him painting his way from the South Shore community of Chicago, to Beaverton, Oregon where he's continued to paint and put in work. And while he's come a long way in the last year, he hasn't forgot the importance of inspiring the younger generation in his hometown and beyond. Everything he works on is done with the intention of motivating the kids back home and proving you can make your dreams a reality in your own way. “You can paint and do dope stuff and people will notice you.”
In the year since, he’s had the opportunity to work with some of the biggest names in Asia, to getting shoes personally requested by Air Force 1 aficionado and hip hop pioneer, DJ Clark Kent. “I knew about Clark Kent through music and his shoe affinity. Fast forward, he DM’d me saying, 'I love what you're doing with the shoes. I need two pair.'" For Julian, that was massive. “That is like Michael Jordan telling you your jump shot is cool.”
Not only would this moment become yet another sign that he was on the right path, it would also help propel Julian to where he wants to be as an artist in the future. “Now, I'm transitioning to what I really want to do and that's painting on big canvases, doing exhibitions, installations. This is just a precursor, you know?"
Disabled flag: SNKRS_flagging_enabled_example