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Oct 13, 2021

Kris Nguyen: Illustration Of Asian Culture In Modern Color Scheme

Illustrator Kris Nguyen showcases Vietnamese culture in modern palettes.

Kris Nguyen: Illustration Of Asian Culture In Modern Color Scheme

Empress Dowager Từ Dụ.

Born and raised in Ho Chi Minh City, Kris Nguyen (Nguyen Quoc Tri) works as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator.

Even when he was still a student, Kris has already shown deep passion on understanding Asian culture, Vietnamese to be specific. As he continued to learn, he realized he could bring the cultural element into his modern designs, hoping to showcase Vietnam’s unique culture to a wider audience.

Kris Nguyen in the áo ngũ thân outfit (five-paneled aristocratic gown, evolved from Vietnamese ao dai).

Kris always aims for simplicity and directness in his approach to art, but at the same time, overlays it with the meticulousness and authenticity of the ancient style, thereby creating illustrations that connect the past and the present Vietnam.

1. How did you study and research to build the characters in your artworks?

To build the characters in my works, I referred to the anecdotes of the royal court or folklore, and sometimes the idea just comes to me when I see my friends in traditional costumes.

I researched based on images, artefacts, as well as records from the past to be able to accurately reproduce these cultural symbols.

The Vietnamese Royal Tea packaging set.

2. How do you balance your own artistic style and the requirements of the client?

Fortunately, many of my clients are those who truly understand the style that I am aiming for. However, we still always need communication and agreement on direction of style, in order to work and collaborate efficiently.

Mid-Autumn Festival gift box - Vietnamese Royal Tea

3. What occupational diseases do you (or think you will) have?

Being too perfectionist with details sometimes stresses me out, making me forget about the overall look of my work.

The Vietnamese Royal Tea packaging set.

4. The worst career advice you’ve ever heard?

Do the job for money, even if you don’t like it.

The concubines.

5. If you could choose one outfit to wear for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I would choose áo ngũ thân (five-paneled aristocratic gown, evolved from Vietnamese ao dai), because this type of outfit used to be an all-day outfit for the elderly, not just for holidays. Depending on the material and style, this type of outfit is also easy to wear.

The portrait.

6. If you could travel to the past, when and where would it be?

I want to travel to the peaceful and prosperous period under the reign of Emperor Minh Mạng, and be a citizen in the capital Phú Xuân - Huế.

Vietnamese New Year.

7. Do you think you will continue to illustrate even after going back to the past?

I will definitely try, that is if digital art is already available in that period.

Belling the cat.

8. If you could choose to collaborate with a deceased artist, who would it be?

I would choose to collaborate with painter Mai Trung Thứ, one of the first generation of Vietnamese modern art painters. His painting style exploited the beauty of the elite, with the strokes creating both realistic and imaginary feelings, building a vivid Vietnam in his artworks, whether he was living in Vietnam or abroad at that time.


9. Which historical period gives you the most creative inspiration?

It’s the Nguyễn Dynasty, the last dynasty that inherits many cultural features of previous generations, but is also very close to modern Vietnamese culture.

Portrait of a mandarin’s wife in the Nguyễn Dynasty.

10. What gives you goosebumps when seeing art?

The subtlety in the details often surprises me. Even if it’s just a very small and simple sketch, it shows meticulous attention of the authors to their works.

“Tự Đức dâng roi”. (Illustration of Emperor Tự Đức apologized and asked his mother, Empress Dowager Từ Dụ, to punish him after he made a mistake.)

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Adapted by Thao Van