Kai Hussey: Teen artist creates extraordinary custom house portraits

Kai wearing a striped blue and yellow shirt poses for a photo on a balcony. He’s holding one of his drawings and a large tree is behind him.
Kai Hussey, 16, has been designing custom house portraits since 2020. Photo by Charlie Senack.

By Grace Bestard

Young artist Kai Hussey has turned his remarkable talent into a unique small business.

The 16-year-old Kitchissippi resident creates meaningful and authentic sketches of local homes. He said home plays a key role in people’s lives. it’s where childhood memories are made, new chapters begin, and family traditions are established within its walls.

The charming artwork is the perfect gift or keepsake and makes an excellent conversation piece, said the Glebe High School student. Each highly detailed image is not only a realistic rendition, but also manages to convey the character of each family home. 

Hussey has always had a passion for art. At 13, he transformed his passion into a business and started drawing the homes of those in his community. 

He began sketching houses when his family decided to move to Hintonburg in 2020. As a moving gift, Hussey’s former neighbour, Blanche, gifted him and his brother each 20 dollars. 

“I wanted to say thank you somehow, so I drew their house.” Hussey said.  

Hussey’s mother, Sophia Wong, knew it was the beginning of a new ambition. 

“It’s actually a funny story. We looked at that and we said, Kai, you could sell this for money,” she recalled. 

After realizing his talent’s potential, the young entrepreneur found the perfect business idea during the pandemic. 

“COVID started, and I couldn’t babysit anymore, which was my way of making some money,” Hussey said. “I would just sit in my room all day and draw houses. I liked it, so I didn’t stop when [the pandemic] ended.” 

Hussey said his biggest supporters have been his parents and the art teachers at his school, who have pushed him to continue pursuing what he loves. His attention to detail and artistry continues to evolve and improve with each of his portraits. 

Each creation is hand-drawn on paper, made uniquely for each home. 

“None of it’s online, it’s all on paper,” Hussey said. “I really just get a picture in person and I use alcohol-based markers and fine liners. I’ll just sketch the house with a fine liner and then colour it in and add some shadows.”

Hussey’s favourite piece that he’s drawn is an image he crafted of his family’s cottage.

“I like the way I illustrated it. My techniques for shading and line work have evolved since I last drew it, and it’s nice to look back at my old drawings,” he said. “I have a lot of good memories of spending time there with my family, so it has a lot of meaning.” 

Hussey runs 100 per cent of his business through his Instagram account where he displays all of his work. It’s a touching artform that connects those from all around Ottawa to the places they hold dearest to them. 

Wong said he is an inspiration not only to his family but the community which has benefitted from his artistic talent.  

“We have multiple properties, and he’s drawn all of them. But he’s drawn them at different times and I feel like each one captures a point in his evolution,” Wong added. “It almost makes me feel like we’ll see these houses again but in different forms. They’re all snapshots along a longer journey.” 

In addition to his Instagram presence, Hussey plans to launch a website soon. In the coming years, the Hintonburg teen aspires to combine his love of buildings, math and art. He plans on applying to the architecture program at Carleton in the fall, where he is hoping to continue in the field entering into his adult life. 

“I like art and I like math, and architecture is kind of like a combination of the two,” Hussey said.

Hussey can be found on Instagram at @kai_originals, where more of his work and inquiries regarding purchasing a personalized home portrait can be found.

Kai sits at his desk and sketches a house. He’s looking at the camera.
Kai Hussey started sketching houses after moving to Hintonburg in 2020. Photo by Charlie Senack.

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