Currently living and working in Saigon, illustrator Bui Ngan works part-time at a design studio, and at the same time pursues her studies. Ngan’s artworks are mainly inspired from her observation of humans and events in daily life, focusing more on women, children, and culture.
When approaching an idea or a character, Ngan often searches for “keywords” related to the object she wants to exploit, and finds the direction to take from there. She then starts to focus more on the work, opens her mind and enriches her perspective on the scenes she wants to illustrate.
1. Which street do you like best?
I like Nguyen Du street in HCMC the most. I often go for a walk there; and walking under the green tamarind leaves feels really great.
2. Where's the best place for you to be creative?
I don’t think using a single word is enough to describe the ideal place to be creative. Any image, state of life, or environment can be used as materials for creative works or products. It could be on the street or in the house, in a crowded area or in a quiet place, in the countryside or in the city.
I like to wander, far away if possible, or just go out for a short walk. During this pandemic period, I was quite diligent to travel from my bed to the kitchen, from the kitchen to the balcony, then hang around at the desk and surf the internet.
3. What background helps you draw without ever getting bored?
Where there is cool air and green trees.
4. To you, what element of an artwork touches the audience’s emotions?
To touch the emotions of the audience, you must start with the feelings of the author first. Authors always put their feelings and messages in their works, even when they were still in the making process.
There are things that aren’t pretty in someone’s eyes, but to that person, it can be a strange feeling. Sometimes when I look at pictures, photos, or films, I am able to feel the author’s message correctly; and sometimes I feel differently from the original meaning of the work.
5. Which of your works reflects the biggest problem of your generation?
I choose the image Paparazzi, which I drew in 2019, about people bringing the natural body of women out for comparison, imposing on personality and dignity, implicitly using it as a common standard or measure for goal, beauty, and lifestyle. I actually think this problem has been around for a long time, not just in my generation.
6. What do you do when you run out of ideas?
I try not to care about it, do housework, make my friends laugh, and joke around with my close friends.
7. What emotions help you to draw most effectively?
When I’m calm and focused.
8. Do you have any fear when drawing?
I used to be afraid whenever I felt negative emotions. In those moments, I didn’t even dare to share what I drew. But later on, I understood that we all have negative emotions. When I started to accept and care for these feelings instead of denying them, I was no longer afraid.
9. If you could only keep one of the five human senses, which would you choose?
What a strange question! Still, I’ll choose the sense of smell, since we all are fighting the pandemic this year.