Artistic Excellence | Cuong Nguyen

By Bonnie Gangelhoff

Third Place Winner

Freya, oil, 20 x 16.

What inspired your winning entry? I have painted this model multiple times because I find both her look and her attitude to be very inspiring. She seems both innocent and womanly at the same time, and she is incredibly comfortable in her own skin. She has a naturally curvy figure that’s a pleasure to paint.

Do you come from an artistic background? My family in Vietnam was quite poor when I was growing up. There was little time to indulge in art. Nevertheless, they recognized my passion for art, and my sister, in particular, supported my ambitions and helped me to attend an art school in Saigon.

Where did you study art? I was trained to be a portrait artist at the age of 10 in Vietnam. After high school, I was accepted into the Saigon Art Academy. I had my formal training there for three years. I came to the U.S. in 1991, and then I continued my education at San José State University in California. I graduated with a degree in illustration in 2000.

What is your favorite subject matter and why? My favorite subject is the human face. I find natural beauty in the people who surround me, and I’m fascinated by them. Faces inspire me so much that I have been known to approach strangers to request that they model for me.

What is the best advice you have ever received? The best advice I have ever received is actually a quote by Elbert Hubbard, “A goal without a plan is just a dream.” It is this thought that guides me to constantly improve my technique and work toward greater success as an artist.

What is the most meaningful recognition you have received for your artwork? I’ve been fortunate enough to win a number of significant awards over the past few years, but the one that was most meaningful to me was receiving the Grand Prize in the 12th annual Pastel 100 competition from Pastel Journal magazine. The magazine also featured my winning painting on the cover, which fulfilled one of my dreams.

Future goals? I’m committed to artistic excellence and lifelong improvement. I will continue to improve my skill, and I hope I will get more recognition by winning more awards. I’m also focusing on a new figurative series for my first museum show in Los Gatos, CA, in early 2012.

Representation: Downey Gallery, Santa Fe, NM;

Featured in December 2011.