We had the good fortune of connecting with Tony Nguyen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tony, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Like many artists, I grew up drawing and doodling all the time. I’ve always loved making art and seeing my progress through the years. The scariest part of making art is always the beginning – the blank canvas. But the best part is that feeling of accomplishment after you spend hours and hours making something. I chase this feeling every time I put pencil to paper and it helps me get over that initial artist’s block. Another joy of creating art is seeing something you’ve created make someone happy. When I create something that makes someone smile or cry it just reaffirms that what I am doing has purpose and value in the world no matter how big or small it is.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
In college, I majored in art. As a fine art major, they had us take courses in all areas: painting, drawing, ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, photography and graphic design. I absolutely loved painting and ceramics, but when it was time to pick a concentration I chose graphic design because I thought that was where the money was and the most practical career choice. I didn’t want to be a starving artist. I graduated and got a job as a web designer. Years later I found myself working in the ad industry in Austin. During the early part of my career, I got away from art. I didn’t draw or paint. While I had a job that paid the bills and was by definition, a creative job, it still didn’t scratch my artistic itch. That’s when I decided to take online courses in art and even go back to school to study traditional animation, which gave me an outlet to draw. I still work in the ad industry today and there are opportunities for me to do more artsy type stuff at work. But now I am able to supplement that with creating art in my spare time. While COVID sucks, it’s been a blessing in disguise for me. Now that I’m home more, I’ve had more time to get better as an artist and the volume of both personal and commissioned work has grown. The main lesson I’ve learned is, just like with anything in life that you’re starting out, you don’t get good until you just do it. And you do it over and over and over and mess up and do it again. In other words, hard work.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Here in Austin, there’s so much to do. You really can’t go wrong with food. Lots of great places for Texas BBQ like Franklin’s, Salt Lick or La Barbecue. Austin is also known for our tacos. Most people may recommend Tacodeli or Torchy’s, which are both excellent choices. But my favorite tacos in Austin tend to be from smaller food trucks. South Congress is a popular shopping area with lots of cool shops. If you want to experience nightlife in Austin, then Sixth Street & Rainey Street are the places to be. And if you’re into the outdoors, there’s options for everyone. There are plenty of trails to go hiking and biking in and around Austin. Barton Springs in Zilker Park is an outdoor pool made up of natural springs. You can also go paddleboarding and kayaking on Lady Bird Lake (Town Lake).
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’ve never met him, but I credit artist Steve Huston with getting me to where I am today as an artist and draftsman. About four or five years ago, I had found myself in a 9 to 5, going home and spending my downtime doing nothing. I had gotten away from art, which up through college had consumed my life. One day after work, I went on YouTube and stumbled upon a 3 hour Steve Huston “How to Draw Heads” lecture. I was hooked and watched the whole thing. Through his lecture, I learned about New Masters Academy, which is an online art school. I enrolled and was able to reignite my love of drawing. Steve Huston also has a book, “Figure Drawing For Artists” that I picked up and helped me re-learn the fundamentals of drawings that got rusty since college. Also, of course, my parents. While they were typical asian parents who wanted to be a doctor and didn’t get their wish, they instilled in me what hard work is and not asking for help unless you absolutely need it. Growing up in Nebraska, I think it was that midwestern work ethic coupled with the American dream that my parents had, that gave me every opportunity to succeed.