Alinda Saintval spends her weekends painting anything from Harry Potter to Bob Marley on canvas backpacks. Now she’s turning her hobby into a business.
“I’m in my room the whole time, music blasting in my ears, and I just go for it,” the 19-year-old UF zoology sophomore said.
Saintval said she first began painting backpacks as a way to express herself as an incoming freshman at UF. Last week, she launched a GoFundMe page to help pay for 50 canvas bags she ordered from a wholesale supplier in China in hopes of starting her own business.
Saintval, who has been painting with acrylic paint since 2014, said it takes her about five hours to complete a design. She uses acrylics and coats her work with a gloss to make it waterproof.
After she posted a picture of a bag that she designed on a Facebook group called “Black Artists Connected,” she received hundreds of requests for prices and information about the custom backpacks.
“When I posted, I didn’t expect it to blow up,” she said. “So when it did, it was overwhelming.”
Saintval has sold 18 custom bags to people from across the country and in Canada. Customers have mailed their own canvas backpacks to her, which she paints and sends back.
She sells them for about $75, not including the price of the backpack.
This Fall, Saintval avoided scheduling class on Fridays, one of the two days each week that she dedicates time to painting backpacks. She receives orders and commissions through her Facebook and Instagram pages, @artstrokes_.
Samantha Leidig, one of Saintval’s former teachers at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach, Florida, said she believes the sky’s the limit for Saintval’s business and artwork.
Saintval recently helped Leidig illustrate a children’s book, which is still in the works.
“Not only can she paint on backpacks, she can paint. Period,” Leidig said. “She is somebody to watch.”
Although many of her designs depict African-American women, Saintval said she’s willing to paint anything customers request. In the past, she has painted items with themes like “Bob’s Burgers,” Kanye West and Tupac Shakur.
As of press time, Saintval’s GoFundMe page has raised $302 in donations in six days. Her goal is to reach $500. With the fundraiser, she wants to launch a backpack line called “Duende.”
“Duende,” a word used to describe inspiration and passion, is a way Saintval said she sees all of her art pieces, which include canvas paintings, mugs and hand-painted sneakers.
Saintval said although some people have doubted her ability to run a business, she’s not going to let anything — or anyone — stop her.
“I keep hearing that it’s going to fall through, and that keeps me going,” she said. “I plan to go as long as possible.”