Toronto illustrator Winnie Truong creates highly detailed work that renders strange subjects beautifully. The images in her latest show, Double Twist, are women bearded by braids, or a pair of clasped hands attached to long ropes of blue hair. The images are haunting and mesmerizing, and the hair seems to have a life of its own. in each image, it comes across as protective, monstrous, burdensome, or unifying.

We spoke with Winnie about her process, the work, and the best advice she’s gotten as an artist.

SDTC: Tell us about your process. Where do the ideas come from, how do you translate them into your work, and how much does a piece change from the original inspiration?

Winnie Truong: The drawings in the show are all original drawings done with pencil crayon on paper. I usually have an idea of what I want the portrait to evoke in my head, and I will create a few smaller studies to work it out. The subjects are loosely based on models in fashion and hair magazines, I am using the expressions of the portrait and the general atmosphere as inspiration when I am doing my sketches. The hair however is based entirely from my imagination, from doodles and designs I jot down on the go.

SDTC: What are some of the greatest challenges of being a young female artist today? How have you worked to overcome them?

WT: I can’t really say that I have ever felt held back by being a female artist, if anything I think being a woman is part of my relationship with the subject matter and it better informs my work. There is probably more to be said about being a young artist, and the challenges that come with building a career in such a time where art is so accessible and many artists are doing the same all around the world. I think for me, working hard and continuing to make work that is authentic and enjoyable to myself has been very encouraging.

SDTC: What is some of the best advice you’ve been given as a young artist? What advice would you give?

WT: From my own experience upon graduating 2 years ago, I think the first important step is having a dedicated studio space and maintaining a work routine right out of school; that way you don’t lose that momentum to keep creating. Otherwise do the work first and then market yourself second.

SDTC: Can you remember an experience that crystallized your desire to be an artist?

WT: I’ve always enjoyed making things as a kid and doodling on every available household surface. It wasn’t until I was urged to apply to a high school for the arts where I specialized in the visual arts and all my electives were filled with portfolio building arts classes that I really began to consider art as a career. I think it was painting late while our art teacher was grading work (that’s 5 pm high school time) in the studio with my friends that cemented the desire to go to art school.

SDTC: What music do you listen to for inspiration?

WT: Mostly internet radio: a mix of indie, and early 2000’s nostalgia.

SDTC: What’s your favourite thing about this new show?

WT: I’m just excited to be exhibiting in Montreal for the first time and sharing what I’ve been working on this past year!

Double Twist is on at Galerie Tres Points (372 Ste-Catherine #520) with Max Wyse’s Vol de Nuit until Nov. 10th.

~ Haley Cullingham