Photo Credit: Lanny Nguyen
Out of all the creative mediums, art will always be the one that continues to impress me the most. How the human mind and hand can work together to create a painting is forever mind boggling to me, but not to those like Tran Nguyen. While people like me simply ate our traditional Saturday Morning cereal alongside our favorite anime and video games in the ’90s, Tran got a lot more. The likes of Serial Experiment Lain and Street Fighter were not only pastimes but her muses when it came to stepping into the art world.
In regards to the real world, as a youth Tran and her family found themselves on a one-way trip from Vietnam to Georgia. Wanting to escape poverty, she recalls being very fortunate her family was able to be sponsored by the US embassy to begin anew in the states. No one can say for sure where Tran would be today if that had not happened. What we can say for sure is she’s a talented painter and illustrator whose art has been seen around the world and on platforms such as everyone’s favorite streaming service to chill with. It was a pleasure getting to exchange words with such a talent and we started off with her arrival in the states and how that did or didn’t impact what she does today.
Kendra: Did the change in not only location but everyday life inspire a change at all in how you approached your art?
Tran Nguyen: Though I moved to the States when I was very young, my parents kept our home life deeply rooted in our Vietnamese culture. Outside the home, I assimilated to the American culture. I wouldn’t say it changed my art but rather allowed me to see things in two different perspectives.
Kendra: What do you feel an education taught you about art that you most definitely would have never learned just painting and creating on your own?
Tran Nguyen: Going to school for illustration gave me structure. It also exposed me to all the different forms of art that I probably wouldn’t have been able to come across on my own. It also gave me an art community full of passionate artists which are difficult to build from scratch.
Kendra: Your use a lot of colored pencils and acrylics. Were those you started with or was it after trial and error?
Tran Nguyen: I did a lot of experimenting, for sure. I explored all sorts of art materials. Things such as graphite, watercolor, digital, and pastel, before concluding to my technique of mixing acrylic and colored pencil.
Kendra: Where on the map is on your bucket list to show your work?
Tran Nguyen: I’ve previously shown in a few parts of Europe but I don’t think I’ve exhibited in France yet. I think that’ll be my next destination.
Kendra: It’s easy to spot your work because you have such a signature style. When approached by the likes of Vh1 or Netflix do they want things done in your aesthetic?
Tran Nguyen: Absolutely, I think that’s the only reason why they’ve hired me is because of my specific aesthetic. My style is established enough so that is what gets me hired. I don’t think I would do a fabulous job if a client were to ask me to emulate another style. It would be a lose-lose situation for both of us.
Kendra: Overall your paintings are whimsical, romantic, powerful fantasies come to life. On the flip side your illustrations have more of a modern design feel. Do you draw from different places when you do paintings versus illustrations/murals?
Tran Nguyen: My gallery work is much more personal and I can be free with the narrative. For illustration work, I’m telling someone else’s story. I also have to keep in mind the design and how it’ll look as a product. For example, book covers need to read immediately at a distance. So I have to make a mental note about where type would fit into it.
Kendra: What’s coming up for you in the next few months? Any new gallery shows?
Tran Nguyen: I’m currently putting together my first ever art book with the help of Flesk Publications. It’s a retrospective book titled Ambedo, which will encompass all the works I’ve done from 2009-2018. We’re hoping to launch the Kickstarter for it in early March. I’m super excited to share this with everyone!