back to top
  /    /  Jennifer Nguyen

Jennifer Nguyen

Jennifer Nguyen

Meet LA-based illustrator, Jennifer Nguyen.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Jennifer Nguyen and I’ve been an illustrator for about four years now. Most of my drawings are black and white, but every once in a while I may feel a little adventurous and add a third, or even a fourth color, but never a fifth because that’s just too wild. Luckily, my plain coloring habits result in a cut on material costs, as my art supplies mostly consist of drawing pens and a very modest collection of colored markers. Style-wise, I would say my pieces lend themselves really well towards children’s illustration since I draw a lot of anthropomorphized moons, anthropomorphized flowers, anthropomorphized mushrooms, butts, etc. When I feel a bout of art block coming on, I will always look to the works of Edward Gorey and Tove Jansson for inspiration.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.
I tell people I’m from Los Angeles, but the truth is I’m actually from one of the small suburbs outside of the city. Giving people my real town of residence results in blank stares, so I just say “L.A.” now.
My hometown is small, quiet, and safe. Everything I need is within walking distance, our Main St. is littered with lots of bustling small businesses, and the houses are beautiful. On the flip side, as a pedestrian, I’m constantly playing a game of chicken with the local drivers.
Los Angeles is large, lively, and (mostly) safe. There are art galleries and music venues all over the place, food from every part of the world is a small drive away, and every weekend there’s some new event to attend. The catch? Parking.
Los Angeles is large, lively, and (mostly) safe. There are art galleries and music venues all over the place, food from every part of the world is a small drive away, and every weekend there’s some new event to attend. The catch? Parking.
What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?
I think I pretty much answered this question earlier, but here’s another best vs. worst facet of living in Los Angeles:  the best thing is the multitude of galleries.  It’s amazing to be following your favorite artists online, then be able to see the real deal in person because they have a show coming to a gallery in town.  The worst thing about the easy access to so much talent however, is that the imposter syndrome really starts to set in pretty hard.

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.
Fortunate, inspiring, nerve-wracking

 

How did you start your career in art?
I didn’t think about pursuing art as a career until after I had finished college. I doodled a lot as a child, but my family used it as an opportunity to preach to the dangers of following your dreams. In college, I tried to strike a balance between my creative interests and academia by pursuing a degree in art history, but my commitment was only half-hearted. Then I graduated and found myself lost. I spent a couple of years working a retail job I loathed but managed to squirrel some money away to quit and reevaluate my life. I started drawing again for several hours every day, posted to Instagram every day, and was eventually contacted by my first gallery to be part of a Halloween group show.  I owe a lot to FOLD Gallery for taking a chance on me and helping me feel like a legitimate artist. From then on I’ve been in a few more shows in a couple of other galleries, and now I’m starting to build up towards participating in craft fairs.

 

I didn’t think about pursuing art as a career until after I had finished college.

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?
My family was not supportive.  My friends and acquaintances fall between a spectrum of polite disinterest to encouraging.  My boyfriend is immensely supportive.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?
My boyfriend’s a lovely writer with a wonderful imagination.  It’d be a dream to publish a couple of children’s books with him.

 

My boyfriend’s a lovely writer with a wonderful imagination.  It’d be a dream to publish a couple of children’s books with him.

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?
I guess music is my other great interest.  I like looking for new bands, I will swallow down my anxiety to brave large music festival crowds, and I tried to learn the bass once (I failed after a week though).  I would be absolutely delighted if I ever got the chance to design album or merchandise artwork for my favorite bands like Oh Sees, Lightning Bolt, La Femme, or Klaus Johann Grobe.  My style doesn’t really fit their styles though so I don’t know how that would go, but it’d make a great challenge!

 

How would you describe the women around you?
The women around me are resilient, hardworking, and funny.  But they’re also humble to a fault, in my honest opinion.

 

The women around me are resilient, hardworking, and funny.  But they’re also humble to a fault, in my honest opinion.

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?
Reading challenges were a regular occurrence in elementary school, and for these challenges, I always gravitated towards picture books.  One book that clearly stands out in my memory is Laura L. Seeley‘s “The Book of Shadowboxes: A Story of the ABC’s.”  Each spread was dedicated to a letter and taken up by illustrations of objects starting with that particular letter.  When I first opened the book and landed on A, what I saw froze me in place.  What I saw was something clearly special and formative to my as-yet-unknown art career.  What I saw has stayed with me even up until now.  What did I see, you may ask?  Simply put, it was an apple, but with a face.  It may sound trivial, but boy let me tell you: it blew my young mind.  For weeks afterwards I drew nothing but be-visaged apples.  If I wasn’t eating or sleeping, I was drawing apples with faces.  If I was eating or sleeping, I was practicing drawing him in my head.  I must’ve filled up a whole spiral-bound notebook with nothing but creepy smiling apple-men.
Laura L. Seeley wasn’t local to young me however, so I don’t know why I used her as an answer.  Clearly I’m still really into her alphabet book.

 

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?
I’d say that as long as you’re consistent, patient, and try to network to the best of your abilities you should be fine.  Luckily art is one of those things where your work speaks for itself, and if somebody likes what you do, your gender shouldn’t play any part.
However, there was that one time a gallery owner got me confused with the only other Asian female artist in the show, so make of that what you will.

 

It should go without saying to keep practicing your craft and power through those moments of self-doubt.

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?
It should go without saying to keep practicing your craft and power through those moments of self-doubt.  However, what’s just as important is the business side of things.  When speaking with potential clients or galleries, don’t flake and don’t make them chase you around for updates.  Be punctual and respectful.  It’s just as important to sound like you have your crap together as it is to draw a really mean man-apple.  It makes you an artist that they would want to work with again in the future.

 

 

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Nguyen.

Category:
Date:
7Like