Mission to commission

Junior hand-paints clothing for sale


Photo by Mia Nguyen

Junior Emily Nguyen paints a new article of clothing in her home on Sep 16. She posts her commissions and other works of art on her Iinstagram @dancing_manatees_inc.

Art supplies and sketches litter junior Emily Nguyen’s cluttered desk as she works on her latest piece. Blank canvases and articles of clothing lay stagnant, waiting to be painted with detailed flowers and portraits. 

Nguyen keeps herself busy in all AP classes, orchestra and a variety of clubs. Despite her tight schedule, she pursues her interest in art and has started taking commissions on hand-painted clothing, which she charges around $15-$45 depending on the item of clothing and design. 

“I painted my denim jacket and started looking for other things to paint,” Nguyen said. “It turns out that sweatshirts can hold paint pretty well and they’re way cheaper than denim jackets to buy. The first time I posted the painted denim jacket on Instagram, a few people [direct messaged] me and suggested I sell painted stuff, so I did.”

Nguyen’s love for art started early. Bracelet making, knitting and origami were ways she could express her artistic talents. Her childhood years were filled with creative school projects and miscellaneous crafts. 

“I really only seriously started in fifth grade,” Nguyen said. “I used a no-brand sketchbook and a $5 set of colored pencils from Michaels.” 

Nguyen’s family is supportive of her art, especially because Emily makes many homemade gifts. Nguyen’s mother supports Emily’s commission sales and prefers it to her getting a conventional high school job. 

“I prefer her to take commission, that way she can make some spending money while doing something she enjoys,” Nguyen’s mother, Loann Nguyen, said. “She can work on her art in her spare time and it doesn’t interfere with studies much.” 

Nguyen’s Instagram is where she showcases her art and where she accepts commissions to paint an article of clothing, like shoes and sweatshirts. Victoria Hardono, a friend of Nguyen’s, bought a shirt with her favorite cartoon characters on the front. 

 “I like the personal touch she adds to her art,” Hardono said. “Since I know her, it makes it more meaningful. Also, the actual clothes are really good quality.” 

Despite Nguyen’s talent in making detailed portraits, she prefers to draw inanimate objects. Her usual medium is colored pencils, but she is practicing using different paints for her upcoming commissions. She hopes to continue to sell more art and improve her skills further. 

“A lot of my art is symbolic and derives meaning from current issues like the perception of beauty or cultural pride,” Nguyen said. “Most of it is just aesthetics. Sometimes it’s just a school project I took way too far.”