A 61-year-old man in the southern province of Dong Thap has been making paintings out of lotus leaves to promote the signature flower of his hometown, which is dubbed Vietnam’s land of lotus.
Le Van Nghia, aka Bay Nghia, dropped his job as a carpenter to pursue his childhood dream of becoming an artist.
Without a mentor or an instructor, the old man had to learn how to make the art pieces on his own.
He started with making paintings from the outer layers of paperbark trees.
However, as soon as he had mastered this technique, Nghia realized that paintings from paperbark trees are not unique and do not represent his hometown, the land of lotus.
|Le Van Nghia collects lotus leaves to make paintings in Dong Thap, southern Vietnam. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre|
“I decided to use lotus flowers, a gift that nature has given Dong Thap, to make paintings because when my works travel further people will know that lotus is a specialty of my hometown,” Nghia said.
It takes at least eight steps to make a lotus painting, from choosing, drying, cutting and ironing the lotus leaves to putting them on sketches. The last steps involve covering the leaves with glue and framing the paintings.
|Le Van Nghia and a portrait of his late wife, made using lotus leaves Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre|
When Nghia first started making lotus leaf paintings, his biggest struggle was how to process the leaves to avoid deformation and mold.
The man finally found a solution - only using mature dark-green leaves with thicker textures and stronger stems, which can easily maintain their original shapes after being processed with sun drying and heat.
The leaves are left out in the sun for five to seven days until they turn brown and become dry, yet with their elasticity maintained.
Then, the leaves are cut into pieces and ironed to adjust their color and allow them to stay straightened when glued to the paintings.
This is one of the most difficult steps because the heat of the iron has to be suitable for each leaf, which has different thickness and texture.
|Le Van Nghia irons a lotus leaf to make paintings in Dong Thap, southern Vietnam. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre|
|Le Van Nghia works on a new painting. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre|