For many, expressing how they feel is much easier through a creative medium than it is through words. That’s certainly true for Hanoi-based illustrator Lucia Pham whose portfolio, while remaining bright and bold in colour, swings between various topics depending on her mood. “When I feel happy, I paint things that are lovely, sweet, with cheerful and bright colours. But when I feel tired, anxious, or sad, I also use illustration to show it, with things that are a bit weird, scary,” she explains. “Because I’ve always wanted to be a carrier of positive energy, it’s actually a bit difficult to say it or show it in a traditional way. So I use an illustration to say how I feel today,” she continues. While a cathartic process, it’s not all about personal expression for Lucia but also about connecting with others, something she believes illustration has the ability to do beyond other forms of communication. “Sometimes words don’t make us feel, but pictures do.”
A familiar tale among illustrators, Lucia was first introduced to the medium through manga and anime and while growing up would while away the hours copying her favourite characters as well as she could. She also recalls an extracurricular school her parents took her to in her pre-primary years (“In Vietnam, it is very common to send children to institutions that help them write better.”) where she witnessed a calligraphy class. Unsure of exactly what drew her to the subject, she simply recalls how she “always wished to participate”; there was innate interest within her. This eventually led her to study graphic design at Hanoi University of Industrial Fine Arts, and she worked as a graphic designer up until two years ago when she made the switch to full-time, freelance illustration.
When summarising her creative practice, Lucia describes it as a process of discovery. She’s a restless creative and is constantly searching for new challenges, be it a concept or technique. This is particularly true when it comes to colour. “I love colour,” she tells us, “and always want to discover more colours that suit my aesthetic thinking.” Just one example of how she relishes the opportunity to change things up within her work, she adds that no matter what changes she likes to “keep something that is mine, so that people can recognise me wherever I am, in any crowd.” And it’s certainly working, as Lucia’s portfolio is nothing short of distinctive. Her characters feature angular facial features and large eyes and are often set amongst a disordered scene where objects and colours collide. It’s this combination of elements that makes Lucia’s drawings so recognisable.