How a local art teacher became an accidental sticker artist

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Chris Frye sticker art. // Courtesy Chris Frye

By day, Chris Frye is an unassuming middle school art teacher. By night, he’s an eclectic sticker artist with an unbridled penchant for bootlegged cartoon characters. If there’s a blank canvas and adhesive involved, he’s in. He’ll immediately start doodling, drawing, or designing with his signature hyper-color flair.

Frye says he was looking for another artistic outlet—something other than the typical large-scale pop art he creates. Something meaningful yet twinged with nostalgia.

He stumbled across sticker art while perusing social media and found an entire global network sharing their ready-to-adhere handiwork. Collaboration between sticker artists is key. “I’ll create something, send it to another artist who will connect and add to it,” Frye says. “I add a character, and another artist adds a character, and so on—a train of labels, if you will.”

Sticker art resembles a compartmentalized blend of graffiti and street art, and it’s given Frye a chance to branch out. “We’re all sort of amateurs in this—and with sticker art, you can be an artist at any level,” he says. “I like changing and evolving, trying new things, doing different fads. You don’t have to do the same thing for the rest of your life.”

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Chris Frye. // Courtesy Chris Frye

Originally, Frye merely wanted to expand his social media presence, but then he started garnering a mini-following.

“I just wanted to get my numbers up and finally get verified, but along the way, I started building my platform,” he says. “The online community is bigger than me—you can find your niche. It gave me a renewed sense of self to reintroduce my stuff to the world—a local kid that could go global.”

Now he’s busy curating packets of his pop art and sticker art and sending them off to his newfound fans.

“From Sweden to Santa Fe, and Germany to Japan, I’ll send stickers to whoever asks,” says Frye. “This genre has a diverse culture and includes all genders, all races, all ages. And I’ll trade with anyone. I’ve picked up work from a hot dog truck in Japan and a secondhand thrifter in South Shore, Massachusetts.”

Because everything is on a fly smaller scale, Frye says it’s infinitely easier to just pop things in the mail. “I could do a mural or a postcard and it’s all in the same hand, but you can’t FedEx a mural,” he says. “Plus, I’ve got a growing collection of street art and stickers from around the world. It’s cool to be a collector as well as a creator in that culture.”

Frye has also set his eyes on international sticker fests. “They’ve become a thing—people from all over the world will send their works,” he says. “It’s enough to fill several entire walls. There really should be a sticker fest here in Kansas City. I mean, if Madrid can have one, why can’t we?”

If the KU grad’s sticker artwork gives a certain ’70s-’80s vibe—well, that’s by design. “Things that grabbed my attention when I was 10-11 years old still appeal to me today. I’m a sucker for the nostalgia factor and what it evokes in myself,” he says. “Skateboards, Happy Meals, action figures with the Kung Fu Grip, Matchbox cars—all fair game,” he says.

With school starting next week, Frye will soon be back influencing young artistic minds. But, during his downtime, you can bet he’s busy whittling away on a nearby doodle book. “I always carry crayons—you never know when you’re going to need to color something,” he says. “What can I say? I like coloring things. Andes I use a lot of colors. There’s a satisfaction to the process.”

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