I met artist Sue Tsai when I was consulting for Monster Products and she was working with the brand on specially designed headphones. That collaboration never took off, but our friendship did. We reconnected at my annual International Women’s Day brunch last year, where she kindly donated art to our auction with proceeds helping local at-risk youth.
Born and raised in New York with a lifelong dedication to visual arts, Sue's rising in the ranks as one of the hip-hop world’s favorite creative talents. She calls fellow art aficionado Swizz Beatz her “brother” and during her recent gallery and pop-up shop The Only Place I Feel Like Me, she solicited high profile visits from supporters like rapper Joe Budden and NFL star Victor Cruz.
Sue's work can be seen on everything from single art for Wale to designs with streetwear line Young & Reckless. Her best pieces are currently selling for upwards of $30-50,000 and her popular social media presence grows by the day. None of this has changed the 28-year-old, who remains the same down to earth, sweet talent focused on inspiring the next generation of artists.
You just wrapped your first gallery and pop-up shop. How would you describe the experience?
“The experience has been amazing and definitely overwhelming. I've had fans fly in from other countries just to come see me and interacting with all these people really inspired me to continue working. Sometimes I try not to expect too much out of these events but with such an amazing turn out, it's definitely stepped up my goals for future shows.”
Is there particular feedback you receive from customers and fans that touches you the most?
“Anytime a fan really connects with your work it is very touching. I love when my work inspires young artists to pursue their dreams as well. One girl told me that my artwork saved her life; that was one of the most amazing moments of my career so far.”
You've established incredible relationships within both the art and entertainment worlds. What words of encouragement have stuck with you from your (highly successful) friends in those industries?
“Just to continue what I'm doing and stay true to my craft. They always warn me that with success comes even more adversity, so it's important to remember how you got here and continue to do that.”
How do you know how much to charge for your pieces? Is there a general rule of thumb or do you set your own prices?
“When I paint I'm not really thinking about how much I'm going to charge for that piece. I do it for myself and create something I love. It's afterwards that if I decide to sell it, I think, ‘how much money would I accept for this piece of me to be gone forever?’ My prices have generally gone up with every show I've done so far and it's been a blessing that I have collectors who see the value in my artwork as much as I do.”
You've taken your art from the canvas to producing various items including bikinis, flash tattoos, pillows, collaborations with lines like Young & Reckless, even single art for artists like Wale. What's up next?
“I'm just going to continue building the brand wherever I see fit. I want to create a completely different lane where I can get fine art out to the younger generation in ways they can afford. I do collaborations and make products that are non-traditional as far as art goes and it's really changing the culture.”
For a young person aspiring to become an artist, what key things should they always remember?
“The key thing is that you need to find your own style. There's millions of talented artists out there and you have to create a style that people can recognize and know it's you. It's the most difficult part about finding yourself as a true artist, but it's the most important.”