Here’s How an Artist Gained a Celebrity Following by Turning Sneakers Into Wearable Masks

The method to the madness.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Chances are, you've seen Gary Lockwood's work before. You may not have realized it at the time, but the Northern California-based artist's work is among the most ubiquitous in all of sneaker culture. 

Better known to sneakerheads as Freehand Profit, Lockwood was recently interviewed by USA Today's For the Win sports section and shed some light on how he made the jump from a starving artist to having his work commissioned by the likes of Tyga, Method Man, and Iman Shumpert.

As a youth, Lockwood was enamored of graffiti culture a quickly picked up the name Freehand Profit, which he chose as a way to show that he makes money by working his his hands. It wasn't long before he earned his Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from the Corcoran School of Art & Design and began picking up freelance work, but Lockwood started to get the feeling that he was destined for something bigger.

"I have to keep listening to people tell me what they want, and they haven't had the artistic training that I have. I'm only executing visions that aren't fully matured," he said.

That's when he starting looking to his childhood love of grafitti and hip-hop for inspiration. One day, he caught a friend's mom just as she was about to throw away an old handbag and decided to repurpose the materials in the form of a gas mask that could actually be worn by graffiti artists. That's when the floodgates opened.

"So I thought, 'What could I use that's going to mean something to me?' Something that's going to have quality leathers, interesting colorways, and I looked down and realized the answer was on my feet the whole time," Lockwood said.

Today, he's more than 100 masks deep, with each creation taking an average of six weeks to complete and many of them coming at the request of high-profile rappers.

"I've been interested in hip-hop my whole life and it's come full circle," he said.

Check out more of his work here and read the entire interview at For the Win.