Nancy Pham

:: AGE

28

:: LOCATION

Brooklyn, New York, USA

:: MEDIUM

Illustration, graphic design, watercolor, painting, videography, photography

:: IDENTIFIES AS

Vietnamese American

What does art mean to you?

Art is a way for me to tap into my feelings, dreams, and aspirations.

As a womxn or womxn of color, why do you think it is important to create?

As a woman of color, I think it’s important for me to create because the creative process allows me to tap into something deep, raw, and usually unspoken. By creating art, I can share these aspects of myself with others. Growing up Vietnamese American, I was discouraged to express myself verbally since emotions are perceived as weakness and I was also discouraged to do art since it wouldn’t generate money or bring stability into my future. However, my feelings and emotions were always there and came through naturally in my art, writing, or dancing (which, thankfully, I secretly did). The more I denied my talent and expression, the more I felt I was denying who I was as a human being.

What or who keeps you inspired?

I love forming connections with people so my brain is always churning up new ideas to reflect on those experiences.

What has been your proudest moment as an artist/creative?  

My proudest moment as a creative person wasn’t when I completed a project, it was when my mother acknowledged and applauded my artistic abilities at around 27-years-old. In sixth grade, I told my mom I wanted to be an illustrator for Disney, and she asked me, “Why do you think they would give you the job over a white man?” I was crushed. Naturally, she was trying to protect me from the unfairness of the world, but at that moment, I felt that she didn’t think I was good enough and it left me with a lot of doubt. Last year, when letting her in on some of my freelance projects, I finally delved into this more with her. She affirmed that she always believed I was incredibly talented and was able to create beautiful images and things, even as a kid, but she was just scared for me. I cried quite a bit hearing this.

How do you define love?

Love is freedom and compassion.

What is the space that you like to create in?

I create almost everything in solitude in my room. When I’m illustrating, I throw all my art supplies onto my bed, open all the window in my room to get as much natural light as possible, and draw and color for hours.

What do you like to listen to while you create?

When I’m creating, I listen to my playlist on Spotify and tap into my feelers. You can pretty much observe my moods in a longitudinal fashion and it’s quite relieving to be able to feel those emotions without having to relive the exact moment.

What do you do with art that you aren’t particularly fond of?

When I’m not satisfied with a piece, I usually start over. I may erase it all, prime it, rerecord, or reconfigure it digitally. Sometimes I just throw it away.

How do you make time to create?

I don’t usually create time for art. It’s more of a necessity. When I’m incredibly stressed, yet cooking and working out doesn’t seem to relieve the anxiety, I start creating.

What’s your earliest memory of making art?

When I was two-years-old, I watched my mom draw pictures of Vietnamese women wearing the traditional outfits (áo dài and nón lá). I thought these women were the most beautiful people I had ever seen with their long luscious hair and soft features. I spent a lot of time coloring in the women with crayons – not the good crayons either, the Roseart ones that were really waxy and left big gaps (it drove me crazy then too). It all started there and I ended up spending lots of time drawing as a kid, borrowing art books from the library, and trying new mediums whenever I was offered them at school. I started winning art competitions in Boise and at my school and this really encouraged me to continue since I was able to get gift cards and buy new art supplies.

Do you have any words of advice for young artist/creators out there?

In all that you do, be brave and authentic. Also, practice.

Do you have any advice for people who want to create, but are scared to/doubt themselves/haven’t created in awhile/have competing priorities?

By the time I reached college, I stopped actively doing art because I was scared of the judgment. I was a science major and felt that having this soft-skill would make me seem less dedicated to science. I didn’t know how to prioritize then, but what I realized was that when I suppressed my creative energy, I had a lot of difficulty processing my feelings and would slowly move towards a depressive state. Right now, I’m in the nursing field and while my patients’ well-being is one of my biggest priorities, I still create and make time for the things I love because if I’m not doing well, I don’t know how I can fully be there for others.

Who is a fellow artist/creative who inspires you?

I love art, but I’m not an artist by trade, so it’s kind of magical to bump into inspiring womxn artists. At Yale, I went salsa dancing and met Camille Hoffman. I love seeing her work on my Facebook feed. She does textures and colors in such an incredible and moving way. In San Francisco, I visited Ana Teresa Fernández‘s art exhibit because I knew her sister, Maria. Her pieces remind me of how to fight injustices with beauty and hope. She’s remarkable. I also watch some Youtube gurus, and even though I haven’t met her yet, I think Claire Marshall creates videos that show her genuine self and style.

What do you think are some ways/one way to strengthen/celebrate the community of womxn who are artists/creatives?

An art exhibit for womxn of color where we can all meet and mingle! That would be a field day for me.

What message are you sending with your art?

I want to send love and delight with my art. Whether people are looking at it or eating it, I feel gracious that I can make people feel happy! I think as I grow more into my art, I want to be able to craft more healing into my work as well.

If you have a child what would you want them to know about you at this stage in your life?

If I had a child, I would want them to know that at this stage of my life, I’m happy doing what’s right for me and for those I love, even if it’s hard and scary. All my life, I’ve tried to fit in to feel acceptance, but now I just know what’s worked for me is presenting my genuine self to the world, following my instincts, taking risks, and learning from mistakes.

Nancy, we admire how you continue to follow your passion for creating. Thank you for sharing how you make time for yourself so that you can truly be there for others. We celebrate your strength, your creativity, and your authenticity.