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artist interview: xuan loc xuan from toi gallery

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We’re absolutely smitten with the lovely, gentle, nature-inspired works of Xuan Loc Xuan, an illustrator based in Saigon. Here she chats to us about her work, life in Saigon and her advice for aspiring artists.

Hello, Xuan! Tell us about yourself. My name is Xuan Loc Xuan, which means a ‘sprout of spring’. I was born and raised in a small town in Vietnam. I majored in graphic design at Ho Chi Minh City University of Arts, and I’m now a freelance illustrator.

Describe your artistic style in three words, please. Idle, quiet and a little melancholy.

Why melancholy? I’m pretty introverted and often feel sad, so my paintings can also have that feeling: cold, sad. Although I’m happier now than I’ve been in the past, the sadness is always there. I've learned how to deal with it.

How did you come to be an artist? Since my childhood, drawing has always been a great passion of mine, so I decided to take design courses when I went to college. I’ve always dreamt of becoming an illustrator. I just drew all the time.

What do you like drawing the most? I’ve always liked flowers, rain and fields since childhood. The colour of the flowers are relaxing and soothing to me, and they give me a lot of inspiration.

What mediums and techniques and colours do you like to use in your work? I started using traditional materials, then moved on to digital drawing and painting.

What is your artistic process like? I always relax my brain first by reading a favourite novel. My emotions usually affect my creativity a lot. That’s why I always try to relax. Then I search for references related to my work. Starting with the roughest draft, I adjust it until I'm satisfied.

Colour is a big part of my work, because I colour choice determines the strength of a picture. So I always choose colour very carefully, this process sometimes only takes a few hours, but sometimes it takes a few days.

How do you balance personal work with paid work? I’m a full-time freelance illustrator, so paid work is a priority for me. I do paid work every day and use the time I have at night for practicing and coming up with new ideas for work or personal projects. If I have free time, I sell some of my prints at art fairs or on my personal pages. I also want to develop a project creating comics for children and adults.

How is your life in Vietnam reflected in your art? My work is inspired by familiar images of nature Vietnam: vast green rice fields, immense blue sky with small white clouds, beautiful wild beaches and the erratic weather of Saigon.

If we were visiting Saigon for a day, what would you recommend we do? The street food in Saigon is really great. Try out traditional dishes, such as banh mi, banh canh and pho.

Who are your artistic idols? My artistic idols are Ryo Takemasa, Jimmi Liao and Pascal Campion. They all have amazing, vivid, creative, and very inspirational drawing styles.

Do you have any tips for young artists hoping to kick-start their career? Don’t worry to much about being successful, because after a while it becomes this invisible pressure. It will make you restless, and make you look down on yourself. Then you can lose interest in what you love. Start by following your passion, then everything else will come naturally.

If you fancy Xuan’s lovely works, you can pick some up over at Toi Gallery. The folks at Toi have sponsored this post, though we really do dig them!