Freshmen start self-owned art businesses selling paintings, T-shirts
It’s common for first-year students to find work manning the front desk of a residential building or making drinks at Starbucks, but an increasing number of students are utilizing their artistic talents to earn money doing what they love.
“It’s really just about being creative and sharing my art with the world,” said liberal studies freshman Simone Green.
Green began selling her acrylic paintings to close friends and family members last year and has since been commissioned to paint larger and more detailed custom paintings, which she posts on her Instagram account @simonelynnart. She is passionate about creating pieces that are meaningful to her customers.
“I don’t ever want to paint something for someone and they think it’s just a generic thing,” Green said. “I want to make it personalized to whoever is buying it, even though it can be hard sometimes to capture every little detail about that person in a short amount of time, so they can be like ‘that’s me.'”
Students have also explored alternative creative routes outside of traditional media. During the first week of classes, accounting and management information systems freshman Thong Nguyen pre-sold about 40 UH-themed T-shirts, which he designed himself using Adobe Illustrator.
Nguyen will donate the proceeds of the T-shirts to the Lebanese Red Cross and One Body Village, a charity that provides aid to victims of sex trafficking in South Asia.
“At first, I just did it for fun because I used to make shirts for my (high) school org, but then because UH doesn’t have a student-run (merchandise design program) like (Texas A&M University) does, I thought I should make something fun for the students that also benefits a charity at the same time,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen discovered a passion for photography as a high school junior. Well-versed in Adobe Lightroom, Nguyen was able to set himself apart from other photographers with his skills in editing and began charging for photo shoots. He plans to continue pursuing photography as a side job and hobby.
Gaining experience in sales and photography has aided Nguyen’s personal growth in both his social and professional life.
“It helped me expand my boundaries,” Nguyen said. “I had to advertise and ask people what they wanted, so it really helped with my communication and marketing skills.”
Both Green and Nguyen use their social media to generate customers as well as showcase their work.
“(I started an Instagram) just to show people what I could do,” Green said. “If they’re willing to pay to have something I can make, I’m willing to do it. For me personally, it wasn’t like I want to establish myself as a business, it was more like ‘this is fun’ and if I can make money off it, let’s just do it.”
Making the transition from a hobby to a small business has proven to be a challenge for the young artists, especially when it comes to pricing their work.
“It’s hard because I’m confident in my skills, but I don’t want to be like ‘this is the best, so I’m going to have the prices way up here.'” Green said. “Even when people ask me, ‘can you paint this for me? I’ll pay for it.’ I just feel bad asking for money even though I’m providing a service.”
The impact of starting a small art business extends beyond the development of marketing or advertising skills.
“(Painting helped me to) be able to express myself in other methods other than talking,” Green said. “Talking to people and just being able to connect through art means a lot to me. That sort of connection is something that’s going to help me not only succeed in my work but also to be a better person.”