It was an early morning in May when Liz McGrath visited a market in Hoi An City, located in Quang Nam Province, central Vietnam.
The Australian teacher did not come to buy or trade, but to observe and sketch the view and people going to the market.
“I’ve been plotting this all week, wondering how I might spy without being rude,” McGrath replied to a fan who commented on the market sketch she posted on her Instagram account @everydaylizmc.
“I’d gone for an early cycle and spotted an empty step opposite these traders, it was shaded and I was able to sit with my back against a wall… perfect.
“Had my sunnies on, and the only person to pay me any attention was a woman who set up her baskets in front of me as I was finishing.”
|A sketch by Liz McGrath features people at a morning market in Hoi An, Quang Nam Province, central Vietnam. Photo: Supplied|
The art teacher said that she loved scenes of color and movement, so she enjoyed sketching in markets and found this was often a nice way to begin a conversation with a friendly local.
“It’s completely impossible to capture the heat, noise and bustle of a morning food market, but fun to try,” McGrath recalled the experience.
The Hoi An market was part of what McGrath had done almost every day during her two weeks in Vietnam in April and May this year: sketching things she saw and ate.
But it was not until 2023 that she gained followers with her sketches.
Three years earlier, McGrath started to post her sketches on social media thanks to the encouragement of her children, during their visit to Vietnam then.
The art teacher living in Wadawurrung Country now has more than 45,200 followers, including those who share her love of Vietnam.
|A sketch by Liz McGrath features Vietnamese 'bánh mì' and 'cà phê phin' (coffee brewed with Vietnamese-style metal filter]. Photo: Supplied|
“Beautiful post Liz. I loved Hanoi when we visited decades ago,” one commented, while another said, “I’m just loving all your sketches as it takes me back to Vietnam,” through her posts.
Some praised McGrath for taking them with her trip through her works.
“Traveling through your art is so exciting -- thank you for sharing!” one wrote.
According to her, she has had many conversations about her Vietnam trip due to posting her sketches on social media.
“Vietnam is fascinating to many of my followers, and a very popular destination for travelers,” she concluded.
McGrath and her family have been to Vietnam three times, with her first trip taking place in 1996.
“I spent a month in Vietnam as a young backpacker,” she recalled.
“A friend and I backpacked from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, on a meandering overland journey that included Da Lat, Nha Trang, Hue, Hoa Lu and Sa Pa.”
“I loved all that I saw and finally returned twenty-four years later, bringing my family with me for a fortnight’s holiday in January 2020.”
During two weeks in Vietnam in 2020, the whole family chose to focus on the south, visiting Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho, and Hoi An.
In their most recent trip in 2023, the family returned to Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An for a few days, and spent most of their time in the north exploring Hanoi and Lan Ha Bay in Hai Phong City.
|A sketch by Liz McGrath features Lan Ha Bay in Hai Phong City, northern Vietnam. Photo: Supplied|
“We all had a fabulous time and created many happy memories,” she said.
“I was so delighted to return to Vietnam this year with my family, sketchbook in hand once again.”
|Liz McGrath (second from right) and her family take a photo during their trip to Vietnam. Photo: Supplied|
'I found inspiration everywhere'
McGrath’s Vietnam sketches were posted on her Instagram handle regularly like a diary capturing every day of her memorable trip in the Southeast Asian country.
Thanks to a collection of nearly 20 sketches, McGrath’s followers were able to join her journey around Vietnam where they could eat a delicious bowl of phở like she did as soon as she landed in Ho Chi Minh City, grab a loaf of bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwiches), enjoy a cup of milk coffee, visit Ben Thanh Market, and drink a glass of lime juice to cool off in the hot weather.
Leaving Ho Chi Minh City, her audience on Instagram continued to 'get lost' in the culinary world of Hanoi through her sketches featuring rượu mơ (apricot wine), bánh cuốn (steamed rice rolls), chả rươi (sand worm omelet), bánh rán (deep-fried glutinous rice balls), bún chả (rice noodles with grilled pork and meatballs), phở cuốn (pho rolls), nộm đu đủ (green papaya salad), cà phê trứng (egg coffee), and more.
|Australian art teacher Liz McGrath is seen working on a sketch during her recent trip to Vietnam this year. Photo: Supplied|
On her journey, McGrath continued to take viewers to the beautiful town of Hoi An, which is home to colorful lanterns and yellow walls festooned with red bougainvillea flowers.
“I feel that Vietnam is a country blessed with a glorious combination of friendly people, fabulous food, vibrant cities and stunning landscapes,” McGrath commented.
“My visits have spanned a quarter of a century, so I see many changes, especially in places like Hoi An, but those four qualities remain.”
|A fish pond in Hoi An City, central Vietnam, as sketched by Liz McGrath. Photo: Supplied|
During her time in Vietnam, McGrath often did two or three sketches a day.
“I always carry a sketch kit with me: it’s a small sturdy bag that holds an A5 sketchbook, a paintbox and brushes, pens and pencils,” she revealed.
“I’m ready to sketch whenever the opportunity arises, and in beautiful Vietnam I was drawn to subjects as varied as koi fish in a pond, to the snack box we enjoyed on the overnight train, to a mouth-watering bánh mì.
“Luckily I found inspiration everywhere.”
|Green chilis and lime, the two spices often found at local eateries in Vietnam, as sketched by Liz McGrath. Photo: Supplied|