Vincent Nghiem

Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I grew up in the outskirts of Paris, in France. Although I've been enjoying it since I was a kid, I started drawing seriously pretty late, around 24 years old. Prior to that I had studied architecture and done several years of various odd jobs that had nothing to do with drawing. 

Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
I was self-taught until 2008, when I made it into the famous Gobelins school in Paris. I had been used to working alone for many years so it took me some time to adapt to the student life again, especially since I was the elder in my class (with many of my juniors being much more talented and aware than I was). So I guess my experience of other things in life (such as my numerous bicycle trips) nurtured the improvement in my drawing more than it would for other people.

Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
It's been hard especially since I dropped my studies in architecture - although they were really successful. And it really looked like a hopeless option to my family, as I was aiming for an elite art school despite doing nothing but odd jobs for many years.

What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
I was influenced a lot by the 80s Japanese anime series when I was a kid, and I guess it still shows in my style (and the fact I've been working as a designer in a Tokyo animation studio for some years now). But I actually draw more inspiration from the live action cinema and directors like David Lynch, when it comes to the themes I develop in my personal projects.

From the initial client idea to the final work: what goes through your mind when you are designing and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
My main job is to design backgrounds for animation projects. I try to take my time to make the idea as precise as possible in my head, before laying anything on paper. And I usually just leave my workspace to go outside to think, it goes way faster in my case. After several years I think this is the most important part of the process, try not to leave too many things up to random tries, and have a strong concept/shape/idea from the start.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
I work for the company Satelight, in a small French team led by the famous designer/director Thomas Romain. I do pretty various things, from concept and designs to layouts and coloring ; but my typical working day is influenced a lot by the Japanese way of doing things, which means working fast and submitting just one design (as  an opposite to the way we do things in the West, usually submit a bunch of propositions to let the supervisor choose from). That basically means more control and responsibility over what we do.

Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
Not yet, but I guess this keeps the motivation going!

What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
I worked on a bunch of Japanese series, as well as some films and video games. When I briefly came back to Europe, I had the chance to work on Tomm Moore's film Song of the Sea as a key BG artist. I'm currently working as a BG (and occasionally mecha) designer on the latest Macross series.

What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
The Japanese anime industry is a great place to learn, improve and get chances to do new stuff. I'll stay at least a few more years to keep on progressing here, especially since I manage to do my own stuff on the side (doing illustrations, characters... and my own comics series in a book we publish with other professional friends) My dream would be to work solely on my own projects when the time comes!

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?
Just go out, travel whether it's far away or in your neighbourhood, experience things and meet people. Just staying indoors and stuck on your workspace will make your spirit dull and dry.

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?
Usually I think this comes pretty naturally... although I would not recommend to just go for the thing we're most comfortable with, but much rather for the one we wanna do the most. Just try something else if you get tired or bored of what you're doing, or compensate your frustrations with your personal work. As for me I wouldn't be satisfied as just a background artist, I need to draw characters and tell stories through comics or personal projects. The balance I found suits me just fine for now.

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?
Not at all. But having full control on the style you choose to go for a specific production is the real key.

We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
I have it too, and I have the chance to live in the country where it still stands the strongest as of today. If just for Japan this will hold up for many years. But I do worry about the fact that the beautiful 2D films we make in my country (such as the recent "Long Way North" or "The Red Turtle", among others) can't seem to get the success they rightfully deserve...

Finally, Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
I just finally made a Tumblr, after many years of hardly showing anything on the Internet. ( ) I'll keep it updated with researches and mini illustration projects as often as possible I also have a comics series in the french fanzine Chaud Nem Jump, along with a dozen of my very talented friends. We've got a Tumblr and a Facebook page, and you can buy our books HERE

Thank you Vincent :)