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An Nguyen is visual artist who uses vibrant colours and intricate composition to illustrate the rhythms and joys of modern life.

Inspired by her travels and love of music, her geometric contemporary paintings capture musical concepts of cadence and rhythm in the movement of their fluid lines and shifting shapes.

Simple moments of modern life are transformed in her paintings via the convergence of music and culture, while thematic elements of jazz and urban architecture intermingle throughout her work. 

An hopes that her art serves as an escape and source of happiness.

She is motivated by a desire to be a female voice in the world of jazz culture, and hopes that her whimsical landscapes can celebrate the explorer in all of us.

Carrie: When did you first realize the importance of art in your life?

Art has always been a big part of my life since I was young. My mom tells me when I was 4 I would draw people on random pieces of paper and try to sell the portraits for 25 cents a piece.

When I was 9 I organized my first art show of oil paintings  in the library of my school and got my first commission doing a wedding portrait. It all seemed so fun and I was so excited to hear people’s stories and how they connected with my art.

In my teens and 20s, art took the form of writing and editing for an arts, politics and culture magazine. I also managed a piano studio and taught music to fund my university degree.  I loved journaling and created customized scrapbooks for people’s weddings. Art took me on many adventures and along the way I met some great minds with incredible talent. 

Now in my 30s balancing a day job, young kids, and home life, art has become even more important to me and especially during this pandemic, as it’s created a safe place to play and to escape. Like most creatives I know it’s important because I need to create to survive.

Carrie: How would you describe your art?

My art is happy, whimsical, colourful, and celebrates the explorer in all of us.

Carrie: What does your workspace look like?

I paint at home in the guest room/studio where daylight seeps through the windows. It has an easel with glass jars filled with brushes, paints, a tripod, and a camera. It gets messy in there. I’m so happy to be able to close the door and hide this chaos from the world.

Carrie: What are you working on right now?

I am excited for my upcoming art exhibition “A Big Universe” with artist Kina Forney. The show will run from October 22 to November 24, 2020 and features a series of original paintings of global cityscapes and limitless skies beyond human reach.

We have been working towards this show for 1.5 years and we can’t wait to show people our creations. The vernissage (Meet the Artist Event) will be held on October 25th from 1pm to 4pm at Trinity Gallery (Shenkman Arts Center), 245 Centrum Blvd, Ottawa, ON, Canada. It’s a free family event and we will have an appointment system, social distancing practices in place. Click here to RSVP.

We have been posting our creative process on this Facebook Event Link.

For our artist statement feel free to visit:https://www.annguyenartist.com/exhibitions

Aside from this show with Kina I currently have a solo art show on display with Long & McQuade called  “The Dynamics of Sound.” The show includes a series of music-themed paintings that were inspired by my experiences attending live concerts over the years.

It also travels back in time to some amazing venues and some concerts I wish I could have attended if I had a time machine.

In early spring I was getting ready to showcase my work at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, but since the festival was cancelled due to the pandemic, I’m now collaborating with Long & McQuade stores to showcase my artwork.

My paintings are currently on display at the 1193 Hunt Club location, and clients can book an appointment with me for viewings. For more info visit: www.AnNguyenArtist.com

Carrie: Can you describe your artistic process to readers? For example, do you follow the same pattern and track when you develop an artwork from idea to product?

My paintings are often inspired by music or places I’ve travelled to. Oftentimes its a memory or a great song which triggers an idea. I sketch it out on canvas and aim to post progress photos and film myself painting the work.

Sometimes I get stuck. That’s when I crowdsource my audience online to get their feedback on what to do next.

When the painting is done, I write a little a description and take photos of the art. I recently started a blog to include more details about some of my paintings in case people are interested. Here’s my blog: https://www.annguyenartist.com/blog

I’m a big believer in  documenting as much as possible my artistic process for my audience i.e. photos, time lapses, etc. It’s sorta like watching a movie and seeing the extra footage. I like sharing what I’m working on and  hope that it feeds the overall art community somehow. 

Carrie: What do you hope viewers take from your artwork?

I hope that people can tour the world through my cityscapes and rediscover beautiful memories and  that these paintings ignite a sense of escape.

For my music paintings, I hope it sparks joy and wonder.

Overall, I hope these paintings have the power to take us outside of our daily lives, and to consider how lucky we are to be alive at such an extraordinary time.

 Carrie: How has your work evolved over time?

Over the past 3 years, I’ve decided to take my art practice from a hobby and transform it into creative business. I’m now a freelance artist, and have a regular studio practice where my art focuses on several themes at a given time. 

Carrie: What is one piece of advice you have for creatives looking to develop their unique voice/style?

Here’s an interesting exercise. Identify 3 to 5 creative things that move you, and blow your mind artistically i.e. songs, tv shows, books, movies, paintings. Inspiration comes from everywhere!

From there, ask yourself how would you improve on that? What themes did they explore that get you super excited?

By building on the work of your “art heroes,” perhaps that’s where you can start your journey in creating your own voice.

Bottom line: Create what you love, what you’re passionate about and your unique voice/style will emerge.

Carrie: What strategies do you use to help yourself when you feel “stuck?”

As an artist I feel stuck often. Stuck dealing with motivation, stuck pulling off an idea in my brain and  then transferring the idea onto canvas, stuck asking for what my art is worth.

For motivation I listen to a lot of valuable podcasts to keep me motivated and to allow me to focus. I also read a lot of books on art. Here are some resources that help:

Postcasts/Youtube:

  1. Andy J. Pizza does Creative Peptalks  for arists: https://www.andyjpizza.com/projects/CREATIVE-PEP-TALK-PODCAST
  2. Raffi & Klee are two great artists that have honest opinions on how to deal with art issues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6m1ARVGq-Iw

Books I love are: 

  1. “How to be an artist” by Jerry Saltz (New York Art Critic)
  2. “Steal like an Artist” & “Keep Going” by Austin Kleon (Strategies to erase mental blocks)
  3. “A Rogue Artist” by Raffi & Klee Studios 

I also surround myself with some really great artists and mentors in the Ottawa and online community who genuinely want to see me succeed and grow. I think that’s super important to have a few solid people you trust to ask questions to without feeling embarrassed or judged. They offer you wisdom, and feedback which is so important to grow as an artist. 

Carrie:  What has been one hurdle you’ve overcome as a creative and how did you navigate that problem?

Finding more time to do what I love. I am a mom with two young children and I have another job outside of art to pay the bills. My biggest challenge is finding time for my creative practice, when so many things are competing for my attention.

 I have been overcoming this challenge in a few ways.

  • Success for me is now measured in Time.  Once I started measuring success in terms of “time to create” not money, not what people think, not  accolades it allowed me to put more things into focus.
  • I am more selective about the art projects that I take on. If I’m not super passionate about them I won’t engage. 
  • I show up and do a little bit every day whether it’s painting, working on my website, a social media post. Even if I’m unmotivated. Slowly chipping away pays off over time and being consistent.

Carrie:  What is one creative resource you can’t live without?

Social Media has been such a powerful tool for me. It’s allowed me to connect with like minded artists and has given me a platform to show  and sell my art without having to rely on traditional ways of sharing my art in galleries. I’m constantly inspired by the talent I see globally and am constantly evolving.

Carrie: Who/what inspires you?

I’m inspired by live music and world travels.

Carrie:  What does the word artist mean to you?

An artist is: 

A visionary, a storyteller, social commenter, at times an activist, and above all a lover.

Additional Contact Info:

Website: www.AnNguyenArtist.com

Instagram: @An_Nguyen.Artist

Facebook @AnNguyenOttawaArtist

Tik Tok: @An_Nguyen.Artist

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L24-dBEyIOk&t=20s

All photos in this interview taken by Ian Holms

There is a photo of a trombone player making music on a stage in bright colors. There is a quote on top that says, "Once I started measuring success in terms of “time to create” not money, not what people think, not accolades it allowed me to put more things into focus."