Sketching street portraits in Hanoi

VietNamNet Bridge – Some of Hanoi’s eager young art students have capitalised on their talent and now earn useful extra income sketching portraits on city streets.

Street portrait season kicks off

Portraits put money in student pockets

Hanoi, portraits, sketching street

In the weeks following the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday, artists at cultural and historical sites such as Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam and Hoan Kiem Lake can earn as much as VND1 million (US$48) a day by sketching portraits of passers-by.

Fine arts students line Van Mieu Street during the first days of spring, joining the calligraphers who reliably attract fascinated onlookers.

A student can earn VND3–4 million a month when only working weekends. A typical day of street portraits during the Tet holiday reaps approximately VND10 million.

Weekends see dozens of fine arts and architecture students selling their sketching skills to locals and tourists alike beside Hoan Kiem Lake’s famous Pen Tower.

It generally takes 15 minutes to complete a portrait. Each sketch costs VND100,000–150,000.

Nguyen Thanh, a third year student at Hanoi Architectural University, said, "Sketching a portrait requires patience and meticulousness. Eyes are the most important, because the eyes reflect the soul."

Thanh said he avoided the design jobs his classmates accepted because of the low income and stressful environment.

"Students working for architectural companies earn only VND2.5 million a month. My sketches earn at least VND300,000–400,000 every day, and I have more free time."

Thanh made over VND10 million from a fortnight of sketching during Tet.

Nguyan Minh Lan, a Fine Arts University student born in 1991, said she sketches for the income and the fun.

“I only work on weekends to avoid affecting my studies, but each month I earn VND3–4 million. The extra income means I do not have to rely on my parents’ money.”

Minh Lan admits enduring the cold weather drives many of her classmates away

The young sketchers around Hoan Kiem Lake form a community of sorts, connected by memories. Thanh, Lan, and some other artists occasionally eat, drink, and celebrate altogether.

Lan’s sketches led to even more opportunities. She now tutors the child of a former portrait subject, earning VND200,000 per hour.

One subject, Pham Ngoc Anh, was very pleased with her portrait.

"This is the first time I’ve seen myself captured in sketch. The painter is very skilled. I will frame and hang the portrait in my house as part of celebrating a happy Tet," she said.

Source: VOV

Hanoi, portraits, sketching street