Meet 16 year old self-taught artist, Phan Dang Hoang

“The moment I pick up the pencil is always the best moment of my life.” ~ Phan Dang Hoang

At three years of age, Phan Dang Hoang picked up the pencil for the first time. Thirteen years later, his talents have captured the attention of the art community, not only in his homeland of Vietnam but across the world.

Hailing from the north central Vietnamese province of Nghe An, Hoang received international acclaim in 2016 after becoming the first Vietnamese artist to be featured in Art People and Colored Pencil, two of America’s most prestigious art magazines.

Hoang is celebrated in the art of ‘truyen than’, or ‘charisma transmitting’ portraits. ‘Truyen than’ is similar to the style of photorealism, but rather than seeking to reproduce a photograph as realistically as possible, ’truyen than’ focuses solely on reproducing the personality and emotion, or charisma, of the subject through realistic renditions of their expressions.

Born into a family of artistic tradition, with both grandparents as successful artists in their own rights, Hoang’s ability to capture his subject’s charisma on the page seems to come naturally as if passed down through the generations.

It is impressive for any artist of such a young age to have their work recognized on an international level, but even more so when Hoang reveals his talents are exclusively self-taught, having never undertaken professional training to draw. A self-proclaimed perfectionist, the 16-year-old artist can spend up to a month finishing a single portrait. He works meticulously, carefully placing each stroke and unleashing his passion in each mark of the pencil.

“I spend a lot of time and effort on each of my works,” Hoang says, “They consume me.” 

“As I draw, I can feel the passion of drawing rising up in my soul,” he continues, “There are many challenges in preparing a drawing, but the most essential element is always feeling. Without emotion, I cannot complete a drawing.”

There are many stages to Hoang’s process in creating each portrait, but it is the subject’s eyes that are the most crucial aspect in the ‘truyen than’ style. “The eyes are the most difficult part,” Hoang says, “They make up the soul of the work. If the eyes are not drawn correctly, the [charisma] will not exist.” Without having professional training, Hoang often finds the more technical aspects of rendering and sketching to be challenging, but he devotes a lot of his time to overcome these obstacles.

“With the passion and desire to go beyond myself, I try to fix any mistakes each day,” says Hoang. “Whenever there is free time, I sit at the table to draw. I study other artists and their experiences to gradually form new habits and handle my portraits better.”

Since his appearance in both Art People and Colored Pencil magazines, Hoang has been invited to join many artist cooperatives across Vietnam, especially in the major cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. While joining a cooperative would be an exciting opportunity for his art career, Hoang admits that finishing his final years of education at Huynh Thuc Khang High School is also very important to him, and he will continue to maintain his studies while working on his art.

“Pursuing learning and passion are the two elements that go hand in hand in my life,” he says, “I will often wake up at three or four o’clock in the morning to finish an artwork before going to school at 6:30 am. Nevertheless, with my passion and relentless effort, I can fulfill every task I undertake.”

Hoang speaks with a passion and purpose well beyond his years, and it is easy to forget that, although he has been thrust into the spotlight of the art world, he is still just a teenager trying to find a balance between his youth and his future. Currently, Hoang is planning to open an exhibit of his work in 2017 to mark the milestone of 15 years of pursuing his passion for drawing.

Hoang also dreams of one day becoming a fashion designer and invests a lot of time developing his English language skills so he can move closer to the world’s fashion capitals, but he will never give up his passion for drawing or his desire to share the culture and the people of Vietnam with the world through his art.

Hoang’s unwavering dedication and belief in pursuing his passion serves as a great inspiration, not only for other young artists but anyone who has a desire to follow their dreams. 

“Despite the challenges and difficulties, always persevere,” Hoang says, beaming with his huge, infectious smile, “Success and luck will smile upon you.”

Photo: Whitney Minthorn
Makeup: Ruan Dang
Stylist: Ron Bui
Producer: Long Bily

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