Nguyen’s artistic inspiration

Senior earns perfect score on AP Drawing portfolio



The talented senior, posing with two of his paintings he turned for his AP Drawing portfolio

Hayden Nguyen is one of the most talented high school artists in the country. 

The Rider senior found out during the summer that he was one of only 343 students in the world who notched a perfect score on his AP Drawing portfolio. 

Nguyen thinks art tells a lot about what people are trying to express. And one of the reasons he’s able to express his talents so well is because of his cousin’s inspiration. 

Christine Kim was only 16 years old when she passed away in a motor vehicle accident over the summer of 2017. Nguyen started to draw mostly because he wanted to copy everything his cousin did. 

“She was an artist and now that she is no longer with us anymore, I really hope she is proud of me,” Nguyen said. “It just feels like I am presenting her legacy as if she was still here.” 

Nguyen had a strong connection with Kim growing up. She was his best friend even though the cousins had a five-year age gap.

When they were younger, Nguyen and Kim would look up artistic prompts. They would each draw something based on the idea they chose. Then they would compare drawings.

Cousins Christine Kim and Hayden Nguyen were closing growing up. Kim is one of the main inspirations of Nguyen’s art. (Courtesy)

“People knew she was an artist, she had an online presence,” Nguyen said. “She drew people but she was more into drawing horses. She posted a lot of art online, and that is kind of our only resource for looking at them.” 

Kim isn’t the only one Nguyen wanted to display his art to. Vickie Harding has been teaching Nguyen since he was in seventh grade. Nguyen feels that he “definitely needed some type of guidance,” and that is what Harding provided for him. 

“Without her, there would definitely be a difference in my art today,” Nguyen said. “I’ve always felt comfortable expressing my ideas, and she will either bring other ideas or just exemplify the ones I already had.”

Harding was so impressed and happy when she heard Nguyen earned a perfect score, but at the same time she was not surprised. 

“Hayden works so hard on everything he does,” Harding said.

Harding feels Nguyen is a very gifted artist and student. She feels he has such natural skills, not only in fine arts, but in his academics as well. 

Nguyen is in the top 10 percent of his class. He went to state for piano last year. Since Nguyen was a freshman, he has gone to state for his artwork and won awards at Midwestern State University. 

“Hayden wins everything because he deserves to, he puts in the time and effort,” Harding said. “He is not satisfied until he completes all the criteria. Because of that, he made sure that he was fulfilling everything.”

The AP Drawing portfolio is not a test. To create your portfolio, you must turn in 20 pieces. Five pieces must be real life and 15 pieces must be done on canvas. However, all 20 pieces must connect with a question. AP refers to it as an investigation. 

Nguyen’s question talked about improving his personal interpretation of the discontinuity of vanity. 

“The word vanity has two different meanings, you can either be really confident or the complete opposite,” Nguyen said. “So my theme was just those two in compliance with each other.” 

The AP Drawing exam is personal. There are no guidelines to restrict you, it is just self-expression. 

“As an artist, I put specific meanings into my artwork and background stories, but no one else can know that,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen feels the most difficult part of creating his portfolio was making sure he was on track, having time management and avoiding procrastination. 

As of right now, Nguyen is not prioritizing an art major, but plans to major in pharmacy. 

“I kind of wanted more stability,” Nguyen said. “I wanted to find work that is more set in stone, and I’ll be OK in the future.” 

Nguyen feels his perfect score will help him in college or any institution that will help him get to the next level. 

Through his studies, Nguyen will still be working on his personal art and he has even considered doing some online art or prints. Nguyen thinks it is important to create some type of online presence such as starting a website or social account to put his artwork out there. 

Harding feels Nguyen will find peace in his art while studying pharmacy.

“He is able to relax doing his art because I think he enjoys the act of it, not necessarily the piece that comes out of it,” Harding said. “No matter what he does, I know he is going to be very successful.”

Nguyen’s current success is partially due to the impact his cousin made on him growing up. 

“I hope that she is still looking over me, that she is proud of me,” Nguyen said. “And she can embody the feelings that I have with all of these accomplishments.”