I’ve been working in the nail industry for 15 years, and see nail artistry as more than a passion or a desire, to me, it’s a way of life and a platform that allows me to express my artistic abilities. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the reactions on my client’s face when I hand paint a design on their nails, ensuring each design is as unique as the client themselves. Working in this industry is both a pleasure and a privilege. Being around so many talented artists and being regarded as an equal to them is truly a humbling experience. This makes me more determined than ever to continue to take my ideas and designs to new places.
Final Challenge: CND
For the sixth and final part of the entire competition, Jan Arnold asked us to pick out a set from the previous Manus X Machina challenges, and, taking all the comments and everything learned during the competition into account, revisit the challenge. Taking all the feedback from Jan, and keeping this fresh in my head, I chose to tackle the Pleats and Folds set. As this was the first challenge I completed, I felt it was the one I could improve most on, given the experience and knowledge I’ve gained since completing it. I was happy with what I did at the time, but after everything since then, I knew I could improve upon it. I knew I could improve the scale of the design, as well as the technique and additional design elements. I felt my initial attempt was moderate and I really wanted to push outside my comfort zone. By introducing these additional techniques and extra design elements, it allowed me to combine my original idea of Art Deco to create a link between the flat nail art and the 3-D gel origami. To step away from my comfort zone, I decided to exaggerate the size and dimension of the design to give it more of an Avant Garde and haute couture look. It’s this look and this idea that will walk the runway at the Chicago Art Institute for the Beauty Changes Lives event. With all that in mind, I had to ensure I kept the balance from the original set between Manus (man-made) with the machina (machine made) but this time, on a larger scale.
Week 10: EzFlow
To me, avant-garde signifies innovation, experimentation, and stepping outside creative boundaries. It’s moving away from the status quo and taking a leap into the unknown. Expressionism and conceptual art on nails is something that ultimately drives new ideas to the wider industry, and I’ve put my expression onto this set of nails.
My inspiration for this week’s avant-garde look was inspired by my studies in fashion design in my college days. Nowadays, fashion and art are one in the same, and nails and fashion are also becoming closely related. Fashion designers such as Gareth Pugh, Victor and Rolf, and Issey Miyake push the boundaries with their bold ideas. I like the concept of strong bold structures, yet transcending into delicate art and design. For my design, I took the boldness of sharp lines and edges (depicting strength) and shaped these into a triangular nail (depicting masculinity) and merged this with the delicacy of origami design.
I have learned so much being a part of NTNA. I’ve been so fortunate to share my journey with all the wonderful nail technicians who worked tirelessly through the competition. I have found a strength and determination I didn’t know I had, and I have a newfound desire and passion. I feel blessed to have been a part of the journey and I want to take this time to thank everyone involved for bringing out the artist – and the avant-garde designer in me.
Week 9: Bio Seaweed Gel
For this challenge we were asked to create a set of nail designs on 10 tips showcasing the neighborhood that had the most influence on our artistry.
This week I really wanted to ‘dig deeper’ to bring out my unusual side, a side of me that people would think, “where did that come from?” Maybe it’s about time I surprised you a little.
Well, would you believe that I’m actually a bit of a surfer dude?
Bondi Beach is a neighborhood that I often visit and a world-famous area located here in Sydney. Culturally unique, and a place where you can never have the same day twice, Bondi is a place of white sands, crystal blue ocean, and permanently tanned surfers. They ride the waves, while others kick off their sandals and just enjoy the endless sunshine.
Bondi also has weekend markets, where you can buy interesting handmade things. You’ll find various graffiti art along the wall near the beach that is produced by many great artists. This neighborhood is vibrant and full of life. I often go there on the weekend, not only to chill or ride the waves, but to also get inspired by the hand-crafted market items. The graffiti art also inspires some of my ideas. Art comes in many different packages, from graffiti walls and painted nails to the iconic beach captured in photos and adorning walls around the world. Bondi inspires ideas. Ideas inspire art. Art inspires people.
Sharing Bondi Beach with you all is sharing one of my constantly evolving sources of inspiration. It is a wonderful place — bright, sunny, happy and truly unusual. Who would have thought that a white sandy beach, graffiti art, and a crystal clear blue ocean, would inspire a man from Vietnam?
Told you I could surprise you!
Week 8: ibd
Well, when I think of scream and queens, my thoughts immediately turn to a time of the year when screaming is the norm and when you might see lots of queens. Halloween is gaining popularity every year, celebrated by both adults and children across the world, and is growing each year in Australia.
Growing up, I always looked forward to trick-or-treating with friends. My childhood was spent In the UK and I have very fond memories of dressing up and seeing other costumes. So, I wanted to go back to my childhood, and looked at creating an inspirational piece that is a true reflection of all the festivities, and what All Hallows Eve is always associated with. There are many Halloween symbols, but I wanted to challenge myself and think about what would be fit for a true scream queen. Halloween can’t start without a witch. Typically, she is near a cauldron, so I created one, which is where all the magic potions are created, full of eyeballs, fingers etc., and mixing it with the bones of those who have been caught by the witch. Recently, I had my first experience of carving out a pumpkin and lighting it with candles, so I wanted to push the boundaries, and create a pumpkin that lights up. No Halloween or witch can be complete without bats, spiders, and webs, and this is is another element of my design. And finally, what better way to bring the nails to life (or death!) then shock everyone with a coffin? To help make the nails come to life, I included a tiny LED light on the cauldron and pumpkin. Fit for a scream queen!
Week 7: INM
Although research on the Northern Lights showed it appears in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, its spectacle is predominantly situated in the North. The Northern Lights appear at a certain time of the year with a kaleidoscope of wonderful colors in the sky. For this challenge I wanted to recreate the Alaskan skyline. When talking about Alaska, you have to mention the Eskimo people. I find them fascinating, how they live under such extreme conditions, yet with a simple lifestyle. I wanted to create an igloo as this is a perfect element for challenging my creative skills. I also wanted to include the snow mountains in Alaska because the natural ice formations always fascinate me. They glisten and shine in the skyline against the radiant backdrop of the sky. The sky is not complete without a reflection on the water, and I included this as part of my design. Since INM is the sponsor of this challenge, I thought I’d create swans which resemble a snow goose. My Eskimo is looking at the sky with his constellation map. I’m sure he’ll be telling his children all about the wonderful lights he sees.
Week 6: Artistic
To me, being an artist is not just a hobby — it’s a passion and a way of life. It’s where our creative thought is expressed through the day and into night. To symbolize this, my background shows the transition from day to night. These are the cycles of the day from dawn to dusk and into the dark night sky, when we may be resting, but our mind is always working.
I was once told that being an artist was not a good profession. I was told that it would never support me and wouldn’t and couldn’t get me through life. It was not respected or perceived as acceptable in ‘our culture.’ Initially, I did listen and didn’t pursue the path I am on now. However, as I got older, I have returned to my artistic ways through the medium of nail artistry. My desire for painting and drawing grew stronger and just seeing the difference I could make to my clients by putting a smile on their faces makes it all worthwhile.
The painting palette and paintbrush are an artist’s best friend, and this is also true for me. Lots of colors and brushes are my tools to draw and turn my imagination into reality. The eye symbolizes the importance of attention to details. Having an eye for detail is also a key element of what being an artist means to me. But of course, you cannot have a masterpiece without a steady hand, so the arm and hand show the importance of precision and control. Of course, nails must be painted. The heart was created to symbolize my passion for the industry, art, and the creativity. Its placement is also key, as my desires for nail artistry were once upon a time kept behind closed doors, but it always ran through my blood. I included the doves to represent freedom — the freedom of expression, to create. I think it’s important to never give up, but always follow your dream. The fun is in the journey, and the outcome is always worth it.
Week 5: Akzéntz
A tough choice, and with us now into the 21st century, I thought it best to choose from a period I could directly relate to.
Granted, it’s almost a century ago, but my choice was the Roaring ’20s. This decade gave birth to many, many things: new inventions, fashion ideas, jazz music, vintage cars, and Art Deco.
I used to study fashion design, and it was always a desire of mine to go back to visit the ’20s. I’ve always been transfixed by the transition of fashion back then – more fitted flapper dresses and head pieces. With a passion for fashion (I’m a poet and I didn’t know it!!) I thought I’d try and create the fashion on the nail to form the first part of my design.
Music also plays an important part in my life. I played piano from 9th grade and once upon a time, harbored a dream of being a jazz pianist. Relating this to the grandeur of the ’20s, I formed the second part of my design to combine music notes, piano keys, and also a Gramophone to highlight how music was played back then.
I’m a great believer in taking in all feedback from judges in NTNA and I was asked to step outside my comfort zone. I really wanted to challenge myself, and, since we have to create 3-D using gel, I thought to myself ‘Why not create a vintage car to show the appreciation to this amazing invention?’
The intricacy of line work in Art Deco was pivotal to the era of the ’20s and this is a perfect way for me to form the final part of my design.
I am grateful to have all the things around me today, which were all brought from the past. People with creative minds, inventions, and many more things we should be appreciative of. Without the past there is no now, and without the now, there is no future, so this art work is to show appreciation of a wonderful decade, and to all the great things that the past has given to us.
Week 4: Minx
There was no specific theme for this week’s challenge and my imagination was running wild. However, I thought I’d create a nail design around a very real and important topic. Now, I don’t want to be morose, but depression is something that we know exists, but are at pains to try and distance ourselves from. On average, one in eight men – and frighteningly, one in five women – will experience depression at some stage of their lives. This could be someone that we meet on a daily basis who is silently battling depression alone. Someone you know who always has a smile on their face, but is covering how they really feel. I wanted this design to remind everyone that the world is a wonderful place to be and it is ourselves who can keep each other safe. Simply reaching out to one another, and just asking, “Are you OK?” can make a difference. It could save someone’s life. Depression comes in many different forms and has many different causes. If we were to look at a person, we simply don’t know what is going on in their mind. They might have a bright and cheerful exterior but on the inside it’s a different story.
I chose bright colors as the background on the front of the nails to represent happiness. I also saw the importance of painting eyes, as eyes are the window to the soul. Even if we were to look at someone’s eyes, we may still not be able to truly tell what they’re going through. The butterfly represents hope through its beauty and transformation, and the heart represents life itself. It’s this side of the world that is wonderful and there for all to see. Therefore, it’s on the top of the nails (the exterior of the person). I then adopted different shades of gray and black to show the depression that is happening on the inside. I also drew another pair of eyes to show the actual feeling of a depressed person, with symbols like the semi colon which signifies that the story isn’t over yet. I emphasized the cloud for clouded judgment. A puzzle that represents the difficulty people have fitting into society, and the question mark to represent self-doubt. Importantly, the broken heart stands for emptiness and helplessness, which is a feeling and a key issue for those who suffer from this horrible, horrible affliction.
I truly hope you don’t see my design as one of sadness, but one of hope and support for those who are fighting. My aim is to bring more awareness to those who suffer this plight, and together, I know that this a battle that we can help others through, and help them win.
Week 3: Gel II
The old adage goes “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Basically what this means is that every person has a different view on what his or her own personal treasures are. For me, to define my own personal treasure, I looked at my past, my present, and my future.
My first treasure I believe defines who I am as a man: my family and friends. Their continuous love and support has brought me to where I am today. They keep me strong through the hard times, and are forever by my side to support me and guide me through any difficult hurdles. Without my family and friends, I wouldn’t be the man I am today, so this is a vital treasure to me, and is the first part of my inspiration.
Time is precious. Once time has gone, we cannot get it back. We only get one chance in life so I want to make every moment count. Without time, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I have had. Or the opportunities that are (hopefully) yet to come. Time is precious and I truly treasure it.
Opportunity. I am so grateful for the opportunities that my parents fought for me to have. However, these opportunities wouldn’t be there for me without my freedom. Without the freedom that has been given to me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. My life would be completely different. The doves represent my freedom; I feel very blessed and am eternally grateful for it.
Finally, and one of the most important things for anyone, education. Education gives us the knowledge of where we have yet to go and the power to support that knowledge. The education I have received and acquired allowed me to achieve my proudest moment in completing college and moving on to university.
Treasures are different for everyone; however my treasures support my values and my story. Family, time, freedom, opportunity, and education. These treasures define where I have been, who I am, and who I have yet to become.
Week 2: Orly
For the NTNA second challenge, we were asked to create a set of wearable nails that not only reflects the history of the famous Sunset Strip, but which also would be classy and chic enough to get into the club and behind that velvet rope for the true VIP treatment. Research was crucial for this challenge, as I’ve never been to LA — my brain was buzzing with all the wonderful sights that the Sunset Strip has and continues to bring to us all. However, it became very obvious early on in my research what my focus and design would be. I came across images of the Sunset Tower Hotel and was immediately drawn to the Art Deco designs, which really captured my attention. Finding out more about the history, I became engrossed with the details behind the building. The Sunset Tower was designed in 1929 and was regarded as the landmark of the Sunset Strip, with famous names such as Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and even President Bill Clinton having been patrons at one time or another. This, combined with the iconic images of the sunset and palm trees of the Strip, inspired me to envision a story, and create this set of wearable nails.
The story begins with a young aspiring singer/actress venturing to the Sunset Strip in search of stardom, fame, and fortune. She is lively, strong, and independent, and one very determined individual. I looked therefore to incorporate the vibrant colors of the Sunset Strip and palm trees on the young lady’s nails to match her lively persona. The chevrons in the design are inspired by the windows of Sunset Tower, and I added Swarovski crystals for more of a standout detail and to draw extra attention to her desire. When the light hits the crystals they sparkle and shine — just like the superstar our actress hoped to become. After all, everyone will always look at the shining and twinkling stars of the Sunset Strip.
Week 1: Gelish
I’ve not had a holiday in six years, and although I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen some parts of the world, I’ve not really seen everything I want to. In my eyes travel is about experiencing different cultures, visiting different places, and gaining new experiences to create long-lasting memories and, if you are really lucky, forming some new friendships. So, for this challenge I want to take you all on a journey of the mind to places that I’ve been to but not seen, and places that I know would help me relax and refresh the body and soul. These wonderful destinations are China, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. China was an easy destination for me. I’d really love to go back and revisit China, because although I have been there, it was whilst I was a refugee, so I didn’t get to really experience the wonders of this wonderful country. I’d love the opportunity to create new memories and new experiences and for me, traveling here would be a chance to really refresh my mind. I have also chosen Paris, as I went here with my hero, my mum. I am a mummy’s boy really and this would give me the chance to re-live some really fond memories of being with my mum when I was younger. Just a quick flight thereafter across the English Channel to the UK. Why? I still have a lot of friends and family that I’d love to visit, and I’d really welcome the chance to see four countries at once with Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales. Last but by no means least, there’s the USA. Simply put, this is my ultimate destination. Traveling there would mean so much to me. Opportunity, excitement, and the chance to see places that you only see on TV, or dream about going to. The USA is the ultimate destination for me. However, as I said, I have done some travel. And to me, right now, the most important travel I have done in my life is to my home here in Australia. After all the traveling, one of the most important things to remember is that you always return home. The saying goes that there is no place like home. Well, traveling to me also means traveling home. After all, home is where the heart is.
Click here to see a video diary of Jonny’s nails.