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[Illustrations] A Dreamlike Saigon in Loc Xuan Nguyen's Watercolor Sketches

In this series of urban sketches, illustrator and artist Loc Xuan Nguyen sees Saigon through a melancholic lens.

There are many ways artists use the streets, people and scenery of Saigon as a muse for their work. Some choose to celebrate the buzz of nightlife in the city’s nhậu areas; some like to observe how Saigoneers look from behind while perched on bikes; some are simply inspired by the remains of Vietnam’s colonial architecture.

For Saigon-based Loc Xuan Nguyen, her vision of Ho Chi Minh City comes in a series of raw sketches with minimal use of colors and digital tampering. Nguyen’s sensitivity is shown in the way she chose her subjects: lone xích lô and carts selling fresh jicama or fried sweet potato.

Scenes of Saigon.

With a faint layer of watercolor, her main subjects stand out like flashes in a dream montage. The rows of houses on Mac Dinh Chi Street are awash with blueness while the street is devoid of people.

Nguyen graduated from the Ho Chi Minh City of Fine Arts and has since been working as a freelance illustrator in Saigon. Most of her recent work feature human characters more prominently than in the Saigon sketches series, but viewers can still, at times, spot a sliver of ethereality running through the pastel illustrations.

“As I said, I was an introvert and often felt lonely. So my paintings reflect those colors: cold, sad and dark,” she told Floating Magazine in an interview. “Although my present life is happier than my past, but there is a twinge of sorrow that I always carry with me. I think I’ve learnt to live with it.”

Have a gander at Loc Xuan Nguyen’s Saigon sketches below:

A street corner on Mac Dinh Chi at 4pm.

Boats on a section of river in District 7.

An old apartment.

xích lô on the side of the street.

A scooter parked next to a wall with a tapestry of crude ads for construction services.

A mobile vendor selling fresh jicamas on Chu Van An Street.

A fried sweet potato cart in Binh Thanh District.

Dong Khoi Street in District 1.

Lily bulbs.

A pencil sketch of a pile of bricks.

Germinated coconuts.

[Illustrations by Loc Xuan Nguyen via Behance user Xuan Loc Xuan]

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