Gioi Tran studied art at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, toured professionally with ballet and modern dance companies, and currently runs Applegate Tran Interiors while selling fine art to collectors throughout the world.
As busy as this multi-talented artist is, Gioi kindly took some time this week to discuss his art, his creative process, and why he chose not to be just a fine artist, but also a businessperson as well.
Alyice: Why did you choose acrylic as your medium?
Gioi: Every medium has its pros and cons depending on your technique, your style, and your approach to a painting.
As I developed my work—which is based on layering and layering of paint—I found water base paint to provide consistent results. How fast it dries is also consistent to how I work since I work on very large pieces and fast. I don’t have patience to wait for the paint to dry— that can take weeks and months with other paints. Also, I find acrylics have the texture and richness that I really like to work with.
Alyice: What is your creative process like?
Gioi: My process is very different than most colleagues I know. I am not very methodical in my approach by doing studies and sketches. The way I paint represents my personality. I think and work at a fast pace and if I have an idea I would like to see it in the full scale right away, I am not afraid to make mistakes.
Alyice: How has your style changed over the years?
Gioi: Like most artists, I started out doing academic drawings and paintings using subject matters as figurative, landscapes, and still life and using a traditional tool such as a brush.
As I developed my skills, I found the palette knife provided a different kind of movement that works for me as an artist. It allows me to move more fluid and it offers more flexibility from thin rough edges or flat and smooth textures.
My current work is based on landscape inspirations—and as mentioned, I use to do landscapes with some water element reflecting the landscapes. Over time, however, I found that reflections are a lot more interesting so I started focusing and abstracting on the reflections of what I see.
The growth for me as an artist is not the result of the finished piece. It is the enjoyment of doing the piece—as I have learned the love of the process itself. Obviously the enjoyment of the experience reflects the outcome.
Alyice: What do you believe is a key element in creating a good composition?
Gioi: Composition is key when it comes to abstract paintings. I don’t think I can point out key elements to creating good composition since it is an intuitive thing for artists. It is not something you can teach. . . it comes from the artist’s point of view as a painter.
Some artist may approach a composition with a single focal point and let the other elements be the background. However, my paintings have an overall effect that is based on the way I see lights and color moves through the canvas.
Alyice: You mentioned that your family wanted you to become a businessman, but you couldn’t escape your creative side. How did you get them to accept the fact that you didn’t just want to create art, but that you “needed” to create art?
Gioi: My family knew that I was different from everyone else in the family since all my siblings had business minds and a sense of entrepreneurship. At the age of 16, I convinced them to allow me to pursue art. I walked them through how I was growing up. . . that I had an artistic eye at an early age. I reminded them how I started drawing and painting at the age of 5 and all about my love for cooking, arranging flowers, gardening, dancing, and all the creative activities.
Alyice: You have been noted as saying, “I incorporated the creative process in design with emphasis on the business aspect.” Can you explain what you mean by this?
Gioi: Being creative is not enough if you want your work to be seen and purchased by collectors.
From the beginning of my career as an artist and a designer, I made sure that people paid for my services and my art. I don’t give it away. I made sure that I put a value on my work early on. Also, marketing yourself as an artist is very important. At the same time I make sure that I follow through with deadlines for my clients and provide a level of service that I think a lot of artist forget to do.
Alyice: You recently designed, and sold out, a collection for Pottery Barn. How did this opportunity come about and how did you feel when your collection sold out?
Gioi: This opportunity came about through one of my galleries representing my work. The feeling is amazing. . . knowing my pieces are over the country feels great.