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Image : Taste For Bitterweet Beds

1. Tran, as we understand, you were in Fine Art Industry before. Did you experience any difficulties whilst transitioning into becoming a professional illustrator ? 

It took some time before I was able to get my foot in the door and expand into the more commercial side of illustration. My work has quite a whimsical and esoteric feel that is often not in the taste of art directors. I began receiving editorial commissions shortly after I was picked up by my current agent, Richard Solomon. He has a great reputation in the commercial industry, and that gave art directors the confidence they needed to offer me work.

TRAN NGUYEN : Photo by Jo McCune

2. What initially inspired you to vigorously explore the mind’s surreal dreamscape ? 

" I'm heavily drawn to works that convey a sense of realism with a subtle hint of surrealism. For me, it's an alluring visual that finds that spot in our psyche where we hide our vulnerability and nostalgia. "

Image : the riverbed nightingale

3. Do you have a philosophy behind your work. If not, what is your ultimate goal ? 

I try to pinpoint the concept behind each of my paintings toward a specific but universal emotion we've all dealt with in our lives. It's my hope that the viewer can relate, recollect, thus foster well-being from what they interpret.

4. Do you have any personal favourite illustration or drawing that you consider a masterpiece of your work? Why is it so special ? 

"Traveling To a Distant Day,” was a cover I did for Uncanny Magazine. It is a personal favorite of mine because it's the closest I've ever gotten to my initial vision.

My paintings never turn out the way I envision them at the start of the project so when it does, I cherish it.

Image : Orange Is Not Your Color

5. You are currently represented by Richard Solomun. How necessary is it for an illustrator these days to have an agent? What are some of the major benefits ?

It's not mandatory to have an agent, although it helps quite a bit. He takes care of the nitty-gritty parts for me such as contracts, making sure I get paid, online and mail-in promotions, etc. It allows me to dedicate more time to art-making - not having to worry about the legal and financial side of working with large companies.

6. They say that no matter how successful you are, you always find new things to learn and new challenges. What is the latest major thing you learned ? 

At this moment, I'm still figuring out color. You would think I would have figured it by now. Color has always been something I've only somewhat grasped. Lately, I've been experimenting with fog which relies on color to create depth. 

Image : Through a Lone Winding Roadinstagram 

7. What is your personal opinion about the world of illustration art in general ? 

I think we have the most compassionate and supportive art community that's ever existed. Truly!

" I've yet to meet an illustrator that's unwilling to help another. We all share our techniques and ideas, and sincerely support each other's endeavours as an artist even though we're competing for the same jobs. "

It's quite the camaraderie.

8. What advice would you give an illustrator wanting to build a business ? 

Self-discipline is vital! Freelancing from home while balancing a personal and work life is a skill of its own. Also, understand that failures and mistakes will happen down the line and that's OK. Learn from it and move on - it's not the end of your career!

Image : treading through an resized