Tran Nguyen is a Georgia-based gallery artist and freelance illustrator. Born in Vietnam and raised in the States, she is fascinated with creating visuals that can be used as a psycho-therapeutic support vehicle, exploring the mind’s landscape. Her paintings are created with a soft, delicate quality using colored pencil and acrylic on paper. Nguyen has worked for clients such as Playboy, Tor, McDonald’s, Chateau St. Michelle Winery, and has showcased with galleries in California, New York, Spain, and Italy. She is currently represented by Richard Solomon and Thinkspace gallery.
A lot of the figures in your work are reclining or in a relaxed position, with necks bent and shoulders drooped. What is it about these postures that appeals to you?
I feel that the reclining position exudes a sense of elegance and whimsy. They help create a more dynamic composition that complements other assets in my painting such as the flat gold shapes and billowing fabric, which are often implemented in my work.
This month’s cover image, Nevermore, is one of the few pieces in your online portfolio that features an animal instead of a person. What drew you to illustrate Poe’s “The Raven”?
I’ve always been intrigued by Poe’s dark stories, particularly “The Raven.” His beautiful descriptions of ominous atmospheres and melancholic qualities perfectly represent imageries that I love to illustrate. Also, birds are reoccurring motifs in my work. I love to focus on their ethereal form, feathery texture, and the mystery behind their presence.
Do you have other pieces inspired by poems or stories? What about these works moved you?
I don’t often create paintings from poetry. Most of my works are heavily based on universal emotions and stories shared by people that I come across. I deeply enjoy depicting the experiences of shared consciousness such as overcoming adversity and existential emptiness.
You commonly use a color palette that is very soft, but features a strong pop of color (such as the red string in Nevermore). What is it about these colors that speaks to you?
I find that subdued, limited color palettes help convey mystery with its subtleties. Not only that, but it beautifully contrasts vivid spot colors. I do the same with juxtaposing rendered figures with flat shapes — it’s something that personally intrigues me.
Your art has been featured in many publications, including Spectrum, and you’ve done work for high-profile businesses such as Tor, Hatchet, McDonald’s, and Playboy Magazine. You’ve also had many gallery exhibitions. To what do you attribute your success?
It’s absolutely all because of my selfless family. I know it may sound Super Saiyan cheesy, but my parents brought my brothers and I to the States with absolutely nothing at hand. Since we’ve moved here from Vietnam in 1990, I’ve seen my dad work in harsh conditions for meager pay so that I could have a better lifestyle, attend a wonderful school, and pursue my artistic endeavors (which is uncommon in Vietnam). In witnessing their endless devotion and hard work, I can’t but be inspired to work just as hard and make them proud as well as myself.
When you illustrate, do you have any little rituals? For example, is there a certain kind of music you like to listen to, or certain type of beverage or food you like to have on hand?
Yes. Actually, it’s somewhat developed into a minor compulsive behavior. I can’t start painting unless I mentally prep myself by finishing two cups of hot green tea while contemplating all the goals I need to accomplish for the workday. Also, there needs to be some sort of background noise, whether in the form of music, TV show, or people talking. I think this helps distract my mind from wandering while I work.
Do you have any resolutions for the New Year you’d like to share with us?
For 2015, I’m continuing the conquest over my forever lingering shyness. People close to me know that I’ve struggled with timidness since childhood, so that’s been a life long struggle. I’ve been trying to be bolder, more spontaneous, and fearless these days — I recently worked as an extra for an upcoming Marvel movie. It’s an impeding trait of mine that I’m slowly conquering.
And finally, in the spirit of Nightmare, what scares you the most?
Scary visuals. Being a visual person, these images are forever imbedded in my memory so my mind tends to recall these images in the night and in dark corners. Particularly, the beginning scene in Resident Evil haunted many of my childhood years. It’s when the player walks into an empty room and witnesses a zombie feasting on a body. He then slowly turns around towards the player to show his grotesque, rotting, blood-stained face. Ugh.
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