Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I was born and raised in an average family in Saigon, which is the biggest city in Vietnam. When I was young, like most of the kids around my age, I was really into drawing and reading comics. I still remember the back of all my textbooks (mainly math, chemistry and physics haha) were filled with extremely dumb doodles, and I spent hours and hours just drawing or watching animated movies which I borrowed from my cousins. It was just a thing that I loved to do, then it became a hobby, and finally turned into a serious career decision after I finished high school, which made me realized how much I love drawing and I could actually make a living out of that in the future. Since then I took drawing seriously and try to improve myself to become a stronger artist.
Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
I’m currently a first year student at The Animation Workshop in Denmark, my major is Character Animation. Before that, I spent 2 and a half years majoring in Graphics Design at a local university in Vietnam, but at the end of my first year, I started realising how bad I want to work in the Animation industry. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in Vietnam that could offer me a proper education in Animation. So while I was searching for animation school abroad, I taught myself by reading books and learning new techniques from artists that I admire.
Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
Although my parents are not artists themselves, they still understand how important drawing means to me. They always support and believe in me no matter what I do. I’m utterly grateful to have them as my parents, without them I couldn’t have enough strength and courage (… and money *sad face*) to pursue my dream until now.
Did you have a favourite subject to draw when you were a child and do you still have one today? If you do, what makes it so special?
I was a huge otaku when I was young, and the only thing that I liked to draw were fan arts from my favorite manga and anime (mostly Clamp’s comic, Doreamon and Pokemon). Later on when I grew up, I started to have interests in art and music from the 1920s to 1970s, so I was super into drawing flappers and pin-up ladies. Until recently I’ve been trying to experiment with only graphic shapes and abstractions. My current style has been heavily influenced by the look of UPA studio and some of Disney’s short from the 40s to 60s, so at the moment my main interests are doing cartoony characters and stylized backgrounds.
What is your process in colouring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
After finishing the line work by pencil, I usually scan my drawing then color it digitally in Photoshop. For the coloring part, I just make a new layer, and then color it with default brushes that I can find or created. Then finally, I just add some extra textures that I made, and adjust the colors until it looks good as it can be.
Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
The most favorite thing that I’ve done so far is the dancing animation I did for school assignment at the beginning of this year. It was the first time I fully animated something with music, composition, and especially in my style and my character.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
Well for the weekdays, I wake up around 7am, have breakfast and go to school. Usually I’ll have lectures in the morning, then after that I just go straight to work on school assignments until 4pm, sometimes staying later. Going to school every day brings so much joys to me since I can draw and animate among my talented schoolmates, and sometimes we get really distinguished guest lecturers from the industry that always keep me inspired.
What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
I usually don’t get much job offers from clients, but last year was a great year for me since I was asked to be a part of a compilation art book called Masters of Anatomy Book 2, which was launched successfully recently. At the moment, I’m looking for an idea for my personal project, and hopefully I’ll get more freelance jobs since I’m an art student, and art student needs money to survive (especially in Denmark, cold…).
What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
Working as a character designer or a storyboard artist are my goals right now, especially working for Laika studio, which is the coolest animation studio right now (in my opinion)! I’m also thinking of doing comics and picture books for children in the near future, let’s see!
What advise would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
I wish someone could tell me how to solve this problem when I was young. Some people said that having art-block means that you don’t work hard enough, but it’s totally wrong; having art-block is just a natural thing that could happen to everyone. From my own experience, whenever I don’t have any new ideas or just can’t draw anything good, I simply stop doing it, and instead I try to clear my mind by reading a book, watching a movie, going to life drawing session, or hanging out with my friends. The bottom line is just keep refreshing yourself and being relaxed whenever you’re having art-block.
Concept art, animation, illustration, comics, there are lots of choices. When you’re young, sometimes you know only one thing: you love to draw. What should a young artist take into consideration to make the right decision when choosing an artistic path?
I don’t think that it’s necessary to decide which kind of path you want to take at a certain point of your life. To me, I just try new things once in a while, such as taking photographs, doing animation, design, sculpture, collage, or strip comics. You’ll never know what you can do without trying to explore your abilities. Don’t stick with one thing for the rest of your life, because trying new things will help you to improve your skill set and make you a stronger artist no matter what kind of art form you’re doing.
Many art teachers and schools suggest to their students that a commercial artist should always work in one consistent style if they wish to have a healthy career. In your own experience, do you believe this to be true?
To be honest, I haven’t heard anything like that from my teachers. Personally, style actually doesn’t matter, the only thing that clients are looking for is a creative artist with a strong draftsmanship, and that’s it. What I want to say is stop paying so much attention to the style, just keep drawing and experiment with new techniques, then your style will just naturally come to you. There’re plenty of artists who don’t have a consistent style, some just keep changing their styles once in a while, like me. I don’t think all of my favorite artists defined their styles at the early stage of their career, so don’t be worried about it too much and just keep drawing.
If you had to recommend only one art book (a comic book, graphic novel, children book, ''how to'' book) to a fellow artist, what would it be and why?
My bible - ‘Cartoon Modern - Style and Design in Fifties Animation’. This book has great insight information from animation studios in the 40s and 50s, and how they have created a new movement of animation which influenced many great artists later. It’s a good book to read and also has beautiful artworks from the golden age of modern cartoon.
Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
Just to name a few of my super awesome artists that I admire (in no order): Ward Kimball, Miroslav Sasek, Alice and Martin Provensen, Lou Romano, Tom Oreb, Chris Sasaki, Tadahiro Uesugi, Picasso and Wes Anderson. All of them have a strong sense in shapes and colors which I really want to achieved in my long term career.
Finally, Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
If you want to see my latest work then you should check out my blog (thinhdnguyen.tumblr.com), and if you want to contact me for commissions or freelance job you can leave your message via my e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks so much :D
Thank you Thinh :)