The business of art
She was only two years old when she was first introduced into the world of art, spending a majority of her free time doodling on her bedroom walls. After taking several guided drawing lessons, junior Fitty Liu decided she wanted to do more with her hobby, soon starting a business and selling her art to an online audience.
After hearing about different store marketing websites from aspiring artists on Instagram and Tumblr, Liu decided to start her own online store, Kittyfish (kittyfish.storenvy.com) on Storenvy, a site that allows artists to set up shops. Liu already had a wide following even before she set up her store, through her Tumblr blog with 4,000 followers, as well as through Facebook and Instagram.
“When my store evolved into one with a larger audience, it kind of surprised me because I thought it was just going to be a one hit wonder, but I’ve just been getting orders and orders ever since I started,” Liu said.
Liu sells stickers, keychains, prints and commissions which are requested art pieces set at a certain price. Liu specializes in her hand-drawn, printed and cut stickers, that she draws on Photoshop. She continues with printing the designs out on sticker paper and finishes with cutting and packaging right her finished product before they go on sale.
“I started selling stickers knowing that a lot of artists are not able to earn profit from their art because a lot of people don’t really appreciate just a piece of artwork, on a piece of paper, on a canvas,’” Liu said. “People don’t really buy something unless there’s some practicality to it, and I wanted to start with the practical uses for art, and then evolve when people started to appreciate it more.”
When walking around campus, you’ll probably catch a couple of people with Liu’s vibrant Disney stickers on their phone case or with succulent printed keychains hanging from their backpacks.
“I really like seeing people use my stickers, because usually after somebody buys something from you, you don’t know what they do with it,” Liu said. “So when people order custom stickers or just stickers from the pack and put them on things that they would normally bring around and have other people see, it makes me feel really grateful that they care.”
After the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Liu created a “#Pride” sticker set, which she sold more of in a smaller time frame than any of her other sets. The set of 20 was created based off of the song “Stand By You” by Rachel Platten. Liu’s friend was originally going to sing in collaboration with her, in honor of the shooting, though it didn’t work out. Nonetheless, Liu continued with the Orlando-themed stickers, and donated 20 percent of her profit to the LGBT community along with the family and victims’ of the tragedy.
“Both of our goals were to publicize support for the LGBT community and to create more of a sense of unity after the event,” Liu said. “There has been a lot of events surrounding terrorism and shootings between gun laws in America too, but I think it’s just this one that really struck me because the media covered it a lot. I would have done it for earlier events but because this one was so publicized, I thought it might have been a better opportunity to publicize it more through my stickers. Even though I don’t make a ton of money, I think every little bit helps.”
Liu developed her interest in art at two years old, since she grew up surrounded by art through her mom and grandfather.
“I was introduced to art at a very young age and I’ve practically been drawing since I was able to hold a pencil. It wasn’t great in the beginning, of course, because I was a child; you won’t be able to see any kind of raw talent as a kid,” Liu said. “But I kept drawing in my free time because I didn’t really have anything else to do besides draw and watch movies.”
When her mom started teaching at an art school on the weekends, Liu began taking several guided drawing classes there.
“I never really liked those guided courses because it was just ‘draw, critique, draw, critique,’” Liu said. “They would just give you assignments on what to draw, and I didn’t really enjoy not having any creative freedom.”
After taking a break with art for a few years, Liu took a comic book illustration class taught by Mr. St. Amant, an art teacher at Suzanne Middle School, during the summers before sixth and eighth grade, with little proper training and technical skills due to her hiatus. Little did she know she’d soon win the “Best Overall” award for different categories of her comics.
“I got a lot of support from him, and along with a lot of my classmates. I think at that point, I knew that I really liked art, but I wasn’t serious about it yet,” Liu said. “The award really boosted my confidence in continuing with art.”
After taking Mr. St. Amant’s Advanced Art class in eighth grade, Liu knew she wanted to continue with art in high school, though she was not able to take an art class her freshman year due to schedule complications. In her sophomore year, she was interested in AP Studio Art, a rigorous art course that needed certain requirements before joining.
“I asked Mr. St. Amant if he could do anything about it. He keeps a list of people that he’s had in Advanced Art, and he sends the list over to the high school to recommend people to join higher levels of art,” Liu said. “I actually wasn’t expecting to [get in], and it’s actually more difficult than I had imagined. It was a lot of trial and error, procrastination, and a lot of artist’s block — not knowing what to draw.”
Even though Liu will not be majoring or pursuing a career in art, Liu hopes to have art as a freelancing option or a second job in the near future and will continue making her products as long as her customers still want them.
“It’s nice to be able to do something that can benefit you and not just be a hobby. I think the greatest thing is that when you like to do something, it’ll also help you in the long run; it will keep my skills toned,” Liu said. “I think a lot of time, schoolwork and academic priority get in the way of people getting to do what they like to do. I feel like sometimes you don’t have to do that. You can always make time for the things you like to do. So that’s how I decided to do it, and a lot of it is just the people that appreciate my art. I feel like without them, I would have stopped doing this a lot earlier.”
By Olivia Chiang, Manager
Photo by Jeffrey Tran