The Rising TN Tide: An Interview with Sydney Artist, Rawgrind
It’s without a doubt one of the most iconic TN colourways of all time. Originally causing a giant splash back in 2014, the Aussie-exclusive Nike Air Max Plus ‘Tide’ is set to create a swell all over again this month, with sneakerheads eager to slip their feet into the crystal-blue uppers.
To celebrate the upcoming release at Foot Locker, we hooked up with Sydney artist and TN-head Rawgrind to discuss TN culture Down Under, the classic ‘Tide’ colourway, and his epic mural in Parramatta.
Are you ready to be swept away?
Tell us about your relationship to the Nike TN. Do you remember seeing the sneaker for the first time?
I remember first seeing the Nike TN in 2006. That was the beginning of my teenage years, when a lot of the boys and girls from the area were getting into graffiti and tagging. So we saw all the older lads and writers rocking TNs – especially at raves. It was such a fresh look back then. You could see us coming from a mile away. Cap tilted, collar popped, shirt tucked and a pair of TNs. As kids, we wanted everyone to know we were ‘one of them’.
How would you describe TN culture in Australia?
The culture right now is the best it’s ever been. Despite what people say, that whole negative stigma of the shoe began to subside about a decade ago. And when ‘lad subculture’ also started to slowly phase out – so did that ‘image’ of the TN. That allowed those who were genuine ‘sneakerheads’ to freely fall in love with the shoe and over time it’s built a solid community of people from all walks of life who are so passionate about the sneaker and its controversial history.
When did your passion for art and sneakers begin to overlap?
I’ve always dabbled with sneaker art here and there but it was probably towards the end of 2018 when I felt like I had something I could really run with. Instead of drawing subjects I saw other artists draw, I focused on the things I liked from Japanese pop culture and combined that with the Sydney street culture.
Why do you find the TN such an interesting silhouette to paint?
Apart from being nostalgic to me, it’s such an iconic shoe and has a very innovative design. As an artist, I study the shape, line and texture of objects and there’s a lot going on with the structure of the TN - so that gives me plenty to work with in my art. You can do so much with the shoe if you pay attention to every detail.
Can you break down the process of creating the ‘Tide’ mural?
So the idea of the ‘Tide’ artwork was definitely something within the parameters of my style. I worked with an amazing team from Space Between, which is a design agency based in Fitzroy, Victoria. Under their creative direction, we were able to bounce ideas back and forth and feed off each other’s energy for this project.
I use a combination of watercolour paint and studio pencils to create all my work. I am able to highlight certain details in some sections, whilst blending others. So with that in mind, I could somewhat figure out how I planned to layer the artwork.
Firstly, in designing the semi-woodblock style wave pattern for the background, I took the cradle of the TN and used its shape to replicate the ripples of seafoam. This sat over a gradient of various shades of cyan and blue to represent the ocean waves behind it.
Secondly, we looked at the Neon Tetra for the fish and used the shape of the body as a vessel for the shoe itself, whilst adding the laces and tongue at the top - acting as the upper fin. And lastly, the sneaker.
Referencing the original 2014 model, I tested various shades of watercolour pencil until I got the cerulean to azure blue fade down pat, using a vibrant red studio pencil for the Swoosh and a light crimson colour for air bubbles.
With the shoe drawn on an angle, we get a three-dimensional look at all its features and detailing when it plunges down into the depths of the ocean. I used a lighter cyan pencil to create a glow effect around the underwater ripples. This gives the impression that the light from above is still peeking through during the impact of the plunge.
What’s your all-time favourite TN colourway?
Without a doubt it has to be the ‘Ashanti’ colourway from 2007/2008, which was also an Australian-exclusive TN. It was an all-white sneaker that featured a light blue to white fade on the mesh, with the same gradient going down the cradle but in the opposite direction, a white Swoosh with the same blue outline and blue bubbles.
The Nike Tuned ‘Tide’ is set to release exclusively at Foot Locker stores on August 24! An online release will follow on August 25 at 10am AEST.