People dream of meeting their favorite celebrities. Perhaps we happen upon them accidentally and we get a photo and an autograph. Maybe we do something worth recognition and that person or group notices what we’ve done.

In Cody Shelton’s case, he has interacted with some of his favorite sports icons simply because he pursued his artistic talent in a new and personalized way and made the right mentions in his Instagram stories.

What do cartoon characters, shoes and famous athletes have in common? Cody’s visual art, for one. His one-of-a-kind combinations depict his sports icons with video game themes and movie characters with Nike shoes — which are also representative of his diverse interests, striking creativity, paradoxical short attention span and laser focus.

Cody creates colorful paintings featuring lifelike drawings celebrities so well done that they could be mistaken for photographs. The drawings are usually surrounded by vibrant colored cartoons, and are sometimes accompanied by inspirational messages. The seemingly unrelated images make the perfect juxtaposition to Cody.

“I like the way it makes the background pop,” Cody said. “I love using colors and the way they interact with each other and how they talk with each other.”

Cody started making his pieces in college when he attended Manchester University. He switched majors his junior year from exercise science to art, but it was not until his last two projects when he was given the freedom to create whatever came to mind that he found his niche.

“I made Mario driving in a shoe — Jordan 3’s, one of my favorite shoes,” Cody says. “From there I fell in love with it, and ever since then I really never stopped.”

Cody’s newfound passion led him to take a break from school to pursue making art full-time. Although he still has a day job, when he is not working he is in his home studio (his garage) making new combinations of famous athletes, bright colors and personal interests. To date he has made a piece with JuJu Smith-Schuster with a Fortnite themed background, another with Arike Ogunbowale on a background of famous cartoons, another of Boba Fett surrounded by Star Wars quotes and facts about Nike shoes, and several others.

While he enjoys making art for the sake of the art, he makes pieces hoping for recognition from the focuses of the people he depicts.

“When I paint the piece, I have the hope of getting it to them,” Cody said. “That’s why I put a lot of pride into it because I feel like I could actually get it to them.”

It was his piece of Demetrius Jackson, a former Notre Dame basketball player and current guard for the Philadelphia 76ers, that first earned Cody major recognition and a significant jump in his following on Instagram. Demetrius posted Cody’s work to his own Instagram, and his piece became Cody’s first big purchase. Similarly, Arike Ogunbowale, a Notre Dame graduate and guard for the Dallas Wings WNBA team, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, a wide receiver for the Pittsburg Steelers, commented on Cody’s post about them, then reposted them to their stories. Arike also purchased the piece Cody made for her.

Cody’s recognition assured him that pursuing an artistic career was worthwhile and sustainable, but he says he feels there is still more to improve upon and the best is still ahead of him.

“I’m excited for the future and to see where I can take it,” Cody said. “I don’t know where it’s going to go, to be honest. I don’t know where my work’s going to go, or how my work’s going to change, but just the whole process of it is what I enjoy.”

Cody Shelton’s work can be found on Instagram with the handle _cshel_, where he can also be messaged with art and work inquiries. χ