PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Jaden Mitchell has come a long way from doodles and drawings in his art class at Bethel High School in Hampton.

The 20-year-old student at Virginia Commonwealth University is now catching the eye of some professional athletes with his custom shoe designs.

“I was kind of always into art; I would do like doodling with a pencil or crayons,” Mitchell said.

He first painted a pair of worn out Vans five years ago. “It didn’t turn out that good but you know that was my first little time,” he laughed.

At 15 years old, he couldn’t afford the elaborate shoes he wanted, that’s why he started to make his own. “I would always look on YouTube and see people painting on shoes. Like I know a guy who used to paint on NBA players shoes and I always wanted to do something like that,” he said.

Mitchell’s designs are custom, ranging from serious social statements, including one that reads “I Can’t Breathe” and another with puzzle pieces drawing awareness to Autism. He also creates fun cartoon characters and kids shoes. He said his favorite canvas is the Nike Air Force 1. “Cause it’s all white so it’s easier to just put colors on like when you’re painting on white its really vibrant.”

He’ll try any design, but is careful with his time. He works mostly on weekends. “Sometimes, I don’t want to be overloaded, like it’s cool for sure but sometimes like mixin’ it with school is like a lot.”

Just last week Mitchell hung up his own track shoes at VCU to concentrate more on business.
Over the summer he signed with a company that makes custom cleats for football players.

“That was a big goal of mine that I’ve already achieved so next I want to dip into maybe baseball or NBA players,” he said.

He did design a pair for Denver Nuggets player Bones Hyland back when Hyland played at VCU.
He also designed cleats for Olympic Athlete Michael Cherry – they used to run track together.

“If I saw my art in a basketball game I would be like — whoa like that’s crazy!”

The money Mitchell makes now is mostly going toward college tuition. He charges between $90 and $200 for the custom art work, plus the price of the shoes.

He sells most of his shoes on Instagram @7i_jay