If there’s anyone who can make the Internet a better place, it’s Adam J. Kurtz. Better known on the Internet as ADAMJK, the designer/illustrator spends his time making art that decisively comments on current events, internet culture, and the struggles that come with being a working artist and … a human. His honest sayings executed in hand-drawn typography explore vulnerability and creativity while simultaneously expressing hope. Which made us wonder: what would Adam do with a paint pen and a pair of Docs? We recently gave him free rein to doodle on a pair of 1460s; keep scrolling for the result.
Introduce yourself. Tell us who you are, what you do, and where you’re from.
I’m Adam J. Kurtz, but everyone calls me ADAMJK on the internet. I’m an artist and author from Toronto, Canada, but living in Brooklyn, NY.
How did you get started in this multi-hyphenate career? What was your turning point?
After spending my early teens on blogs, message boards, and making fan websites, I studied Graphic Design in college. I then began a creative career doing traditional design work for a number of related companies (an internet marketing firm, an ad agency, a media website) while having fun on the side by making gifs, printing zines, and running a small online shop for stationery and pins.
I design and self-publish an annual agenda called Unsolicited Advice every year and in 2013 it caught the eye of an editor at Penguin Random House. She invited me to meet for coffee and helped grow what I was doing into a daily journal called 1 Page at a Time: A Daily Creative Companion. That book contains a lot of me and ended up becoming a sort of cornerstone for my career, sort of providing context for all my bits of personal work that were, until that point, a bit harder to grasp as a unified whole. It’s gone on to be translated into 17 languages and just totally changed my life, basically.
Tell us about the inspiration behind your DIY DOCS design.
We know life is a journey and the only way out is through and we need to keep moving forward and it’s about the path, not the destination, blah blah blah, and it’s all trite but also extremely real. I spend a lot of time thinking about who I was, who I am, and who I will be someday. Which is nice, because I used to only think about the immediate future and now I’m anxious about like, so many more years than that!!!!
The ladder is a visual representation of all that for me, and I like to imagine all of us starting at the bottom and climbing slowly. And “NOW” for me is about halfway and the rest is coming “SOON” and you can look back to “THEN” but you can’t actually climb down again.
I wanted to make a perfect pair of boots for someone to wear along the way so I borrowed from my own work, mostly my weird little art therapy journal Pick Me Up: A Pep Talk For Now & Later, which is full of ladders and stars and anxiety about the unknown and hope for the future.
Tell us about your first pair of Docs.
I feel like getting a pair of Docs is a rite of passage in New York because you’re always walking and you need something that’s going to last forever, that’s cool but also not too cool that you can’t wear them with whatever you’re wearing. I have a pair of black 1461s and I love them so much and they are so comfortable and I wear them almost every day.
Which of your designs/phrases do you relate to the most, right now?
I really am full on in this THEN & NOW & SOON headspace as I look toward the future. Just over a year ago I married my boyfriend of five years and everything started to feel a little more serious, like it’s really just us in this big stupid world looking out for each other and our friends and family and the people we love. I don’t know what comes next for us but I’m going to keep moving forward and figure it out along the way.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about Instagram / social media?
Favorite: I can share what I’m thinking and feeling with thousands of people instantly.
Least favorite: I feel like I have to share what I’m thinking and feeling with thousands of people the second I think and feel something.
What’s your favorite meme?
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Eat a cookie” – my grandmother
What’s next for you?
I might eat a cookie?