10 emerging Vietnamese artists & their work about Vietnam

Vietnam may not be a big name in the world map of illustration, but there are some serious talents who deserve wider recognition. They’re not only wildly gifted, but also working hard to open Vietnamese culture’s door to the world. Some of them I personally know from design school, some from freelance collaborations. Just a few friends, and friends of friends, who keep amazing me with their inspiring illustrations.



I know Phan Thanh Dat from our “Moon Pie” picture book made for Room to Read Vietnam. This crazily talented guy is best known for his expert control of tones and shades in watercolours. His artwork is mesmerizing, poetic, and full of charm.

He often draws his characters wearing traditional Vietnamese clothing. Here you can see how he lavished gorgeous apparels on the characters. One girl wears typical Northern garments: áo tứ thân and nón quai thao. The rest has the classic áo dài and mấn. The luxurious embellishments of the fabric look all splendid thanks to a wide range of subtle shades. It’s such a delight to see how skillfully Phan Thanh Dat integrates traditional features and values into contemporary tales and fascinations. I’m a fan for life!



Having known Shishi Nguyen from design school, I feel lucky to see her style developing throughout the years. She has got this wonderful combination of soft lines and gentle watercolour/Photoshop that produces warm and endearing illustrations.

Lunar New Year (or “Tết” in Vietnamese) is the most important time of the year for Vietnamese. It’s all about happiness, coziness, and copiousness. Anything red is considered to bring luck and wealth. Watermelon, naturally, becomes the king of fruit those days. Shishi channeled the plentiful vibe perfectly with a warm colour scheme. The subtle texture of the wind and the watermelon’s skin gives depth to the composition and enhances the cozy mood. It’s always soothing and pleasant to look at her work.



Simple, clear, and feminine. Nguyen Xuan Loc‘s illustrations always have a strong endearing mood. Her drawings stand out with naturalistic characters and fine details.

Lunar calendar is essential in Vietnam. It’s believed that there is an animal protecting each year from all thing evil. Nguyen Xuan Loc used her fine skill to personify one of the twelve lunar zodiac animals – the snake. The shapes are soft with an organic tactile quality. The watercolours’ shades are simply gorgeous. This rustic yet alluring atmosphere in her illustrations is something you can’t ever get enough!



Le Thu‘s strong passion for cuteness shines through her work. Her control of shapes and shades has been outstanding since the day we met at design school. You can never mistake her work for others. There is a strong honesty and delight in each and every stroke of her brush.

One of Le Thu’s most lovely artwork is this drawing about the wonderful relationship of mother and child. Most Vietnamese women get huge pressure from the society to be super wives, perfect moms, and excellent employees (if they choose to be employed at all). Even then, most women manage to do all three. Le Thu carefully illustrated a mother’s care in every bits and pieces in this stunning artwork. The subdued yet rich colours bloom beautifully. The warmth, love, and charm in her art are so rich that they melt me in a blink.



Killien Huynh and Quang Phung have worked together since the day I met them. Quang does most of the line work and Killien colours them to the point of perfection. The combo of well-defined, strong lines and zestful colour schemes makes almost everything they illustrate drop-dead gorgeous.

The above artwork is a double page in their latest story, “The First Journey”, which won The Scholastic Picture Book Award 2015. The captivating tale is about a boy rowing amid a heavy flood in the Mekong Delta in order to go to school. The beauty of the delta unfolds with the stunningly intertwined layers of blue and green. The danger is great. The boy is small. His courage and aspiration for knowledge is profound. Killien and Quang’s illustrations of his journey make it, and everything else, come to life vigorously.



Having her heart in the picture book world, Thuy Com channels the whimsical and quirky spirit in her artwork. Her characters seem to have fun all the time in their playful postures and lovely bright colours. Her enthusiasm runs through everything she gets her hands on.

I feel lucky to have 2 picture books, “The Square Bear” & “Get me the bucket!”, illustrated by Thuy Com for Room to Read Vietnam. The above artwork belongs to the later book, in which many types of traditional containers in Southern Vietnam appeared along the fishing trip of the two brothers. Many of these bamboo woven holders don’t exist in big cities anymore. They’re even on their way to extinction. So it’s just great to have Thuy Com illustrating them in an enchanting tale for safekeeping. Her lively brushstrokes and narrative-rich characters will surely keep the artefacts alive for many years to come.


I’ve admired Khoa Le‘s work for a long time. She always manages to express a heartfelt beauty and a dulcifying atmosphere in her art. The richness in texture, the subtlety of details, the lavishness in shades – all adds up to gorgeous artwork you can’t forget once you lay your eyes on it.

Khoa Le did the above illustration for a Vietnamese folklore about a princess falling in love with a poor fisherman’s voice, but later she changed her mind once she saw him. Accompanied by Khoa Le’s ethereal illustrations, the story becomes subliminal. It lifts up your imagination. The feeling of the princess about the silhouette of the fisherman is blooming, yet fragile and about to shrivel. The finesse in the art is simply impressive.



Lá Studio is run by Pham Hoang Giang and Nguyen Thanh Vu. They are quite flexible in their illustrating styles. What you can always recognise is the decisive forms and expressive shapes. Together they tell as much about the story they illustrate as the text does.

What Lá Studio expresses in the artwork above is Vietnamese children born in the 90s making a kite. They assembled old newspapers and bamboo or wooden sticks from old brooms, then glued everything together with rice (so that they could eat while making the kites). Their resourcefulness, creativity, and dedication to their playing is strikingly sweet and warm. Each splash of colours elucidates the characters to their cores. Those kids live in the country side, have tanned skin while running under the tropical sun, and try to make the most out of their surroundings. The magic Lá Studio has made is restoring that spirit faithfully.



Tamypu is one of the most well-known illustrators in Vietnam right now. Her meticulous line work and delicate colouring resonate with the hearts of many. That level of dedication is not only hard to reproduce, but also one-of-a-kind.

There is always a dreamy and sincere attribute in Tamypu’s artwork. Even the smallest thing becomes significant. Even a small grain of green rice. Just as Westerners can do all things with wheat, Asians in general and Vietnamese particularly can make all things with rice, from the simplest snack to a whole meal. Street vendors with those tasty treats walking around small alleys is a daily thing in the old days. Yet it transforms into a beautifully poetic scene under the hand of Tamypu. In a compelling composition, her expert shading gives the piece so much depth and space that I can almost smell the green rice and feel the breeze rustling. The exquisite quality in her artwork always keeps me longing for more.



Last but not least, Trong Lee is one of those talents who can revive history with its full glory. Trained as an architect, Trong Lee has the ability to precisely render any structures. At the same time, his appreciation for art retains a soft touch and creative spontaneity in his illustrations.

Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City) is changing so fast that people who grew up on the brink of change feel the need to be nostalgic. Trong Lee did it on his own way by creating a whole series honouring the Saigon that was once called the “Pearl of the Far East”. His adept watercolour renderings bring back the metropolis in its golden days, together with the love everyone has for it. The hand-drawn typography signages, the auto rickshaws, the bamboo window blinds, everything is there. Just there, as if they’ve never been away. Incredible details, impeccable colours, immaculate mood. It’s a treat to view Trong Lee’s artwork.

Of course these are not all the talents in the illustration world in Vietnam. I’m already thinking about more names now, and the post may become super long (if it’s not already very long). Another post another time!

This blog was first published on Kuvva blog.

10 emerging Vietnamese artists & their work about Vietnam

5 great animated shorts honour pioneering women in animation

It’s time for Annecy International Animated Film Festival! This year female animators are in the limelight. The 39th edition of the festival features an all-female jury and film programs by female directors.

For the busy minds out there, something (super) short yet wonderful to see is the opening sequences starting each screening made by GOBELINS animation students. To pay homage to the pioneering women in the animation industry, GOBELINS students created 5 beautiful intros highlighting the hardship and accomplishments of 5 admirable ladies.

(In no particular order)

1. Mary Blair, Walt Disney studio’s most influential female art director.

“Mary Blair is hired to work in Walt Disney’s gigantic and rigorously maintained garden. As he welcomes her and invites her to get to work, she starts producing plants magically. Although he is amazed, Walt cannot refrain from correcting and toning down Mary’s work behind her back…”

Directors: Michiru Baudet, Cécile Carre, Viviane Guimarães, Fanou Lefebvre, Léni Marotte

2. Alison De Vere, the first woman to win an award at Annecy.

“Alison is giving birth to a creature, who runs away when faced with the oppressing stares of huge statues surrounding them. Alison then runs after her creation, to be finally confronted with the eyes of the crowd.”

Directors: Adrien Calle, Leïla Courtillon, Martin Hurmane, Nathan Otaño, Jules Rigolle

3. Evelyn Lambart, the first Canadian female animator.

“Tribute to Evelyn Lambart, first Canadian animator and Norman McLaren’s collaborator.”

Directors: Simon Anding, Elena Dupressoir, Lucas Durkheim, Paul Regnier, Diane Tran-Duc

4. Claire Parker, co-inventor of the pinscreen animation technique.

“In a castle full of hedgehogs, an engineer is trying to satisfy her king, who wants her to create an unusual machine. After being thrown away for her failure, she finds an hedgehog on her head which gives a brilliant idea. She presents her new invention to the king, astonished : she reveals a pinscreen made out of hedgehogs and their spines.”

Directors : Alix Arrault, Jules Durand, Arina Korczynski, Margo Roquelaure, Ines Scheiber

5. Lotte Reiniger, director of the first European animated feature.

“Germany, 1936. Lotte Reiniger, prodigal creator of marvelous universes in paper cut, finally chooses to confront herself to the reality of the outside world.”

Directors: Hadrien Bonnet, Nicolas Capitaine, Charlène Chesnier, Céline Desoutter, Samuel Klughertz

This blog was first published on Kuvva blog.

5 great animated shorts honour pioneering women in animation

Visit the eloquent world of collages by B.D. Graft

Have some time these warm summer days? Pay a visit to the wonderful world of collage by talented artist B.D. Graft. His stuff is ace. They don’t only please the eyes but also intrigue the mind.

We at Kuvva Gallery is putting up an exhibition highlighting his best pieces. The vedette of the show is definitely “Is It Mine If I Add Some Yellow?” The series questions art and ownership.


“The yellow came as an accidence. I just had this yellow paper lying around and I had a book of art. I just thought “why don’t I stick this paper onto the art?” and wow, it actually looked pretty cool. And that got me thinking about this whole concept. Collage is appropriation anyway: you always take what already exists and you make it your own. That’s why I thought “why not make it a bit more fiercely?” So if I take yellow – only a pure colour – and I add it to something else, then it’s a bit more ‘in your face.’ I’ve only taken one colour and I’ve put it on someone else’s work and I’m claiming it as my own. It brings out the whole question of ownership a lot more than other collages I might make.”

Not limiting himself to only papers, B.D. Graft opened an Instagram account and encourages people to contribute to his movement of ‘adding yellow.’


“The project started at the beginning of 2015, so not long at all. On Instagram I follow a lot of collage artists and they follow me. It becomes this community, and when I posted this project, there was a lot of enthusiasm about it from my followers. They may see some yellow and think “oh this could be for the project”. And then it’s this collaboration, this common theme that we all share, rather than just random collages. It’s a lot more fun than if I only did it myself. It’s nice to see other people’s ideas as well.”

Besides making his art broad, B.D. Graft makes it deep. “MK” is his dear anthem against oppression.


“Making art on pages of “Mein Kampf” can sound pretty controversial. But it’s actually my way of going against what Nazi taught about modern art. They thought it was degenerate art. They were very much into classical art. For me, to take what I usually do with collages and to stick it onto the pages of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is me saying “screw you.”

That being said, B.D. Graft is not all about political stuff. He is a nice guy who likes sneakers, and to make art about them. Here is one piece of the “Air Max” series.

“I’m not a super big sneaker-head but I do enjoy wearing and buying different shoes. It was actually one of the first collage series I had ever done. I think it’s a nice thing. And it’s nice to share that with people as well.”

With this many great work, you wouldn’t think that B.D. Graft has just started being an artist not that long ago.


“I used to draw a lot when I was younger but then I stopped completely and I did different things. First I was studying film, and then I was studying English Literature. In 2013, I actually started making collages because a friend of mine – Geoff J. Kim – who had been making collages for a longer time and he kind of gave me the idea of trying it myself. And that’s when it kind of started snowballing. I made one, I made another one, and then I just completely got addicted to it.”


“There were times when I was busy, when I had exams, or I had to write my thesis, so it became less. But it’s always been on my mind. Sometimes when I’m lying in bed, I even think “oh that would be a cool idea” and then I want to get out of bed, but it’s the middle of the night. I do have other ideas for paintings and other things but I haven’t actually shown to the public yet. Collages are something that I feel most comfortable with and other people are most enthusiastic about it as well.”

It’s true. It’s hard to fully describe how bright his eyes light up whenever the word ‘collage’ is mentioned in our chat. His enthusiasm is super contagious. It sure would take him far.

“The (Kuvva) gallery space is excellent and really good. It’s actually funny because last year I was in this gallery looking at the art and I thought “wow, I would really like to have my art hung here” and one year later, it’s actually happening. So it’s really exciting. It’s really nice. It’s crazy.”

To share the thrill with B.D. Graft and his brilliant collages, come visit Kuvva gallery! The opening is on Wednesday, August 5th 2015.

Kuvva Gallery, Pazzanistraat 33, 1014 DB, Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam, NL

This blog was first published on Kuvva blog.

Visit the eloquent world of collages by B.D. Graft

“Coda” – a beautifully soothing animated act about life

“Think again about death”, “Coda” would said. This wonderful 9-minute animation challenges the conventional assumptions about the end of life. It’s not dark and cold and cruel, it’s surprisingly soft, generous, and full of sympathy.

A bit humour at the beginning of the story provides an easier transition into the richer layers of emotions later. The overall colour scheme is dark, yet soft and ethereal. All the contours are rich in colours and emotion, yet so fragile, as if to illustrate the same characteristics of the border between life and death.

Following the journey of a drunken soul meeting his end, we see an alternative form of death. His life didn’t replay before his eyes and he just sat there watching passively. The guy asked for it. He pled with Death to let him experience his life all again, to remember. This is, after all, the most important thing someone could have by the coda of their lives.

This wonderful short is crafted by And Maps And Plans studio from Dublin. It was shortlisted for the 87th Academy Awards 2015 and nominated for the 42nd Annual Annie Awards 2015. It’s nice to see Irish animation going strong!

Directed by Alan Holly
Produced by Ciaran Deeney
Written by Alan Holly and Rory Byrne
Art direction by Ronan McMeel
Music by Shane Holly
Animation by Alan Holly, Rory Byrne and Eoghan Dalton

“Coda”‘s concepts and sketches, by courtesy of Ronan McMeel.

This blog was first published on Kuvva blog.

“Coda” – a beautifully soothing animated act about life

Meet Mehdi Alibeygi, the animator of awesome movements

One time visiting animator Mehdi Alibeygi’s Vimeo account can work a treat. His animations are short, concise with mesmerizing motions. The gestures alone are so strong and rich on their own that they can guide you from the first second to the last of the whole story. The fluidity and smoothness made us gaze each frame in awe. We had to know the guy behind this black magic. We had to. So we knocked on Mehdi’s door and got the chance to chat to him about his craze for animation, inspirations, and future projects.

Hi Mehdi! Please tell us something about who you are and what you’re passionate about.

My name is Mehdi Ali Beygi. I was born in Tehran and I grew up with Eastern European, Japanese, and some Disney animations. I graduated with a B.A. in Graphic Design. I started my career in animation as an ‘inbetweener’ and a clean-up artist in a studio when I was 19. At the same time, I was drawing cartoons and caricatures for press and festivals. I also did some character design and concept design works. Up until few years ago, I didn’t even know what my job actually was or what I was meant to be doing, but I was certain that I enjoyed comedy and humor.

What then pushed you into the path of animation? And what are some of the most important things you learned while doing so?

I think it started in school when I used my textbooks as flip books. Later I worked on short comic strips with small ideas. On the other hand, I became familiar with animating and I was always intrigued to animate my ideas. That became a reason to make my first short animation, “Evolution”.

There are challenges in almost all aspects of an animation project that I have to learn or try new things to find solutions for them, and sometimes find out how others solve those problems. Solving these puzzles is what I enjoy.

Your work features many energetic characters with rich body language and movement, especially “8” (below). Where do you find inspiration for this aesthetic? And how has it shaped your working process?

I simultaneously exaggerate and simplify my characters as much as I can, either in the form or the personality. I limit the numbers of their characteristics and emphasize on them. In this manner, a character movement becomes clearer and more understandable.

About “8”, I should say this animation is about one of the most famous former Asian football players, Ali Karimi, who had extraordinary abilities in the field. In this animation, I wanted to experiment if it’s possible to find an equivalent of this football player’s movements in an animation medium, an equivalent just as unpredictable as his movements in the real world. Beforehand I had more or less an abstract format in my mind that its combination with this character seemed interesting to me.




Colour test


Are there any new themes or motifs you want to incorporate into your work, but haven’t had the chance yet?

There are many themes and ideas I hope I can make them someday, but it is difficult to put a good idea in a practical format. But there are many artists with good and different ideas. It has happened many times that I have had an idea in my mind, and I watched a work only to realize they had made and created the same idea in the best possible way. I am fascinated by Eastern themes, specially Iranian miniature painting, in which I see a great potential for animation.

Last but not least, do you have any recent or upcoming projects that you’re particularly excited about?

Yes, I prepared a TV series plot about a character with bipolar personality that is like a ‘reversible coat’. A simple sneeze can turn him inside out and the other side of his character appears. I also have a short film called “Change Over” that was shown in Annecy Film Festival this year.

Thanks Mehdi!

Scroll down for the concepts of Mehdi’s latest animated short “Changeover.”





And an excellent short called “Bazar,” Mehdi’s most favourite work so far!

This blog was first published on Kuvva blog.

Meet Mehdi Alibeygi, the animator of awesome movements