Winnie Truong is a Toronto-based artist. She works with pencil crayons on paper to create large scale portraits. She received a BFA from OCAD’s drawing and painting program. She was also the recipient of the 401 Richmond Career Launcher prize, the BMO 1st! Art Award for Ontario and W.O. Forsythe award. Her work is exhibited at ESP (Toronto), Mulherin Pollard Projects (NYC), Gallery B15 (Copenhagen) and Galerie Trois Points (Montreal), among others.
Art school got rid of all my stupid ideas. You have to purge them. I started making large-scale drawings halfway through my first semester of thesis at OCAD. Before that, I was painting. I didn’t even realize I could be drawing. The switch happened when I took Luke Painter‘s advanced drawing class. I started doing large-scale pencil crayon drawings and it was a revelation. It was such a natural way to do work. For two months, I was struggling with a medium-sized oil painting that I wasn’t invested in. Drawing was more intuitive for me. Sometimes, things feel wrong because they’re easier, but that’s when they’re right.
I keep sketchbooks full of doodles. I jot down ideas and the ones that resonate with me, I’ll keep working through until it’s a more composed concept. Essentially, I draw a small version that will become the bigger version. The smaller sketches help me visualize what the final product will be. They’re also fun, little, precious things I keep for myself.
Usually, I take photos of my work as I go along. The kind of line work that I do is optical mixing and it looks completely different when I process it through my iPhone. My phone has become an important tool. It allows me to step back and see the picture in a condensed way. It highlights how the colours are mixing.
When I was in school, developing this series, I projected the image onto paper. It was an extra step that made the process longer than it had to be. I stopped because I don’t have a projector anymore. It was out of necessity but my work really benefited because now I draw freehand.
I’m not a pencil crayon snob. I will admit to using Prismacolor, which is top notch. I’ll mix it in with Castell, but the waxier material of Prismacolors works better because I do a lot of hatching line work. I need the waxiness to sit on top of each other.
Often, people only see my work online, through a screen. It’s a completely different experience in person. There’s so much more detail. It’s a labour-intensive process. It’s the compounding of very many little lines–addition and layers. I’m also expanding my subject matter, this world I created, into more decorative motifs. I’m going further away from strictly doing portraiture. It reflects my own obsession with the medium–more and more drawing.
–Winnie Truong, as told to Studio Beat
Photos by Courtney Vokey
Check out more of Winnie Truong’s work here.