Tran Nguyen is a Georgia-based freelance artist with an interest in therapeutic imagery. Born in Vietnam and raised in the States, she received a BFA in Illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design. She is fascinated with creating visuals that can be used as a psycho-therapeutic support vehicle, exploring the mind’s dreamscape. Her paintings are created with a soft, delicate quality using colored pencil and thin glazes of diluted acrylic on paper. We talk about nerdy stuff like video games and anime, then switch it up and talk about psychology and artistic inspirations. Read below for the full interview…
You are no stranger to gallery showings. When you first started showing, were you a bit vulnerable? Did you have to develop a thick skin to deal with the nerves of knowing many people would see your work publicly?
Tran: Deathly afraid. Even now, I get queezy at opening receptions. I never know what to expect and how to gauge the response. Many thoughts and worries always come to mind — will people despise my concepts, will it sell, will my work stand well with other veteran artists that’s been showing with the gallery for years? It’s crucial to be able to differentiate between constructive criticism and derogatory remarks. Absorb what will make you a better artist and don’t take it personal. Your art may be personal but remember that it’s also a business.
In addition to people buying your artwork through galleries, I noticed there is a ‘purchase’ section of your website that has yet to be filled. Can we look forward to small edition prints of your work?
Tran: Yes, hopefully I’ll be able to grace the section with some new limited edition prints and originals as well. Let’s shoot for early 2014.
Your work aims to support the mind’s surreal dreamscape. There are many experiments and theories that different people in different parts of the worlds experience different dreams. How has the duality of Vietnamese and American life affected you?
Tran: Every culture has their own dreams, while the images, objects, and people within their dreams differ, the motifs, symbolism, and emotions are all the same. These are universal emotions. I’m deeply grateful that I derive from two cultures which allows a more expansive knowledge plane to illustrate. It’s allows me to interpret the same emotions in two different manners, comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences.
Would you recommend that all artists have a better understanding of the psychological aspect of art? Can it become dangerous to focus too much on the fantasy aspect?
Tran: I’d recommend it but I think as artists, we all have a subconscious understanding of the many facades and aspects of art. I don’t think there could be harm in focusing on fantasy. If fantasy is your niche then embrace it.
Thanks to games like Final Fantasy, I’m familiar with Yoshitaka Amano. Tell us about your fascination with him and how you draw inspiration.
Tran: I first came to know Amano’s work through Final Fantasy VII. I was immensely enamored by his haphazards of golden shapes and intermingling figures. His decorative style and strong compositions was what intrigued me the most. Though his figures were simple, it was juxtaposed with clusters of motifs and whimsicality. In viewing my work, it’s obvious that I incorporate Amano’s decorative elements in them.
What are some of your favorite Anime or Asian films?
Tran: Most of the Ghibli films, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Interlude, Mushi-shi, Full Metal Alchemist, Escaflowne, and Serial Experiments Lain. They all bring back very fond memories of my younger years.
A lot of your recent work is heavily colored in blue’s and browns. If we are on the subject of psychology, what could one audience member drawn upon from that? Is there a sense of sadness to your work?
Tran: My color palette choice is mostly subjective — they’re colors that I find complementary and most effective in conveying my concepts. The muted blues and browns help further the image’s solemn tone. Melancholy is a common theme in many of my works. It’s an extraordinarily complex emotion that I find engaging to depict. Many of my other concepts ties in with melancholy as well, including nostalgia and metamorphosis. In a sense, there is a pint of sadness in them, but this is a significant asset in conveying therapeutic imagery.
Your work was featured in the Keanu Reeves driven film ‘Generation Um’. Quite the cool opportunity! What other unique avenues has your art been exposed through? Any cool stories?
Tran: Currently, I’m collaborating with a non-profit organization to create garments inspired by my work. I’m stoked about it. I’ve also done illustration projects with Playboy magazine and Tor, who are wonderful clients to work with. I also had the pleasure of creating a promotional image for an art convention in the UK. It’s been a very fortunate few years for me.
Looking ahead, what plans do you have for early 2014? Any additional shows?
Tran: In this coming year, I’ll be producing 14+ new works for a solo show at Thinkspace gallery. Should be exciting and I hope you all can join me if you find yourself in Los Angeles. Also, next month is the opening for the 3rd Annual Moleskine group show at Spoke Art. I’m contributing a new piece for that as well.
Lastly, what advice can you offer up to budding artists on the cusp of graduation and looking to start a career?
Tran: The wisest thing I can tell aspiring artists is to maintain a confident outlook. It’s crucial to trained yourself to accept that not every project will be successful. You will always learn from the experiences, whether a success or not. Having a strong, optimistic mentality when approaching the industry is imperative if you want your career to go for the long haul. Oh, and freelancing can be socially impeding so make sure you stay in contact with the outside world.
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