Vanessa Nguyen is the ultimate creative; in a contemporary world where Photoshop is the norm and owning a Mac is preliminary, it’s nice to see a blend of pencil and paper amongst the whirlwind of progressive digital illustrations.
Having experimented with digital design as part of her continuous, unravelling journey of self-discovery, Nguyen’s influences range from refusing to be bored to the tracks rotating on her playlist. We chatted to the Sydney-based illustrator to understand a little bit more about her work, and how her life ties into her feminine expression.
Vanessa Nguyen takes a graphic approach to her macabre illustrations, a stark black and white contrast belying her eccentric, eloquent detail.
HAPPY: How did your love affair with illustration come to surface?
VANESSA: I think I was always a creative child; drawing pictures in the sand at the beach or being naughty and drawing on the walls at home. But probably during my teenage years was when I started practising illustration consistently for a period of time.
Drawing and painting classes were always my favourite. I went on to finish a design degree, did and am still doing a lot of freelance creative work and it’s all growing from there.
HAPPY: How would you describe your style of art? Is it representative of yourself as an artist, or does it have an deeper symbolic meaning?
VANESSA: I suppose you could say it’s quite feminine and highly detailed. It’s definitely evolved over time, but that’s what I love most about it. I don’t want all my works looking the same. Each series represents a different chapter of my life and I enjoy looking back at works from yeaaaaars back and being like: “wow!”
In saying that, the way I see my work will be completely different to someone else, so I’m not sure if I could put down words to describe its style.
HAPPY: What inspires you to get creative?
VANESSA: I’m constantly meeting new people and experiencing new things. My art is a way of documenting my life and processing the things that have happened to me or happened to people I know and who are around me. Sometimes it’s even just me creating a world that isn’t mine, that I can inhabit for a little while.
Self expression is so important to me. I’m always pushing myself to keep doing something new or push the boundary a little bit. I never want to be bored or be doing nothing, so being creative always keeps me motivated. Travel and music definitely play a part in my inspiration. Being an Asian woman in the creative industry too. I think my work ethic comes from being told as a young Asian female, you have to work ten times harder than anyone else and have more skill sets than anyone else in order for you to be considered successful.
HAPPY: Is your taste in music an influence on your style? If so, are there any particular songs that have influenced your work?
VANESSA: No particular songs influence my work, though definitely while I’m drawing, the music that I play really sets the tone for the pieces I create. Right now it’s a lot of Fever Ray, Nicolas Jaar and 80s Japanese funk haha. Such a mixed bag.
HAPPY: Talk us through the different mediums you use. Do different mediums help convey different meanings for your art?
VANESSA: I’m all for hand-drawing, though I have dabbled with digital graphics too. The medium doesn’t necessarily convey another meaning, it’s more just me experimenting with something different. I feel like I’m still discovering me, who I am as an artist and what my purpose is as a creator, so experimentation is a way of me finding what I love most.
Ink and pencil is definitely where it’s at though, it’s the medium I always go back to.
HAPPY: Do you have any projects that you’re especially proud of, or that we can look forward to in the near future?
VANESSA: I’m in a group show with the boys of St O’Donnell, Select Gallery #004, coming the 1st of July. That’s going to be really fun. I’m super excited for it. The boys always throw a good party and there are so many great local creatives who get involved. Fashion, music, art and food too. All my senses are tingling just thinking about it! This will be coming up to my third show with the boys now so I’m super proud to be part of the family of sorts.
I’ve been working on pieces for that so you should definitely come. Other than that, I recently got back from a trip to Japan and am hoping to organise a show over there in the near future so anything could happen!