Paintings on lotus leaves

The lotus plant is very spiritual and loved by Vietnamese people from all walks of life. In order to bring the image of this special flower into daily life, Kieu Cao Dung from Hanoi has turned ordinary lotus leaves into works of art with traditional cultural features.
Turning a fresh lotus leaf into a art has many stages, combined with a variety of different chemicals and secret techniques. Paintings on lotus leaves are meticulously completed through stages from selecting leaves to coloring, drying and processing.

To pick beautiful lotus leaves, Dung goes to the lotus ponds around West Lake on summer days when lotus blooms are turning into beautiful fresh flowers. “I mainly use lotus leaves from West Lake because the leaves are thick and the color is bright. If I do not go to the pond and pick lotus leaves by myself, it is difficult to meet the technical standards for the processing stage,” said Dung.

Dung often chooses lotus leaves grown in the deepest waters of  West Lake. He then cleans and dyes the leaves in different colors depending on the content he wants to convey in his paintings. Dung uses food coloring to soak the leaves to ensure safety for users. Dung said: “Timing is crucial. If the leaves are oversoaked, they will get damaged. If they don’t soak long enough, the leaves will not absorb color”. Leaves are soaked in a coloring liquid for 2 to 3 days before being dried in an oven.

Kieu Cao Dung has turned ordinary lotus leaves into works of art with traditional cultural features.

Dung uses food coloring to soak the leaves

Drying a lotus leaf.

Pruning to shape the work on the conical hats. 

Shaping lotus leaves to form a cone shape. 

A painting is made from lotus leaves. 

Drawing on the dry lotus leaves. 

Young people learn to make paintings on lotus leaves.

Dung introduces his products to foreign customers.

To create the unique artworks, the most important and difficult part is drawing on the dry lotus leaves. Hoang Hoang, a student at the Vietnam University of Fine Arts, who has been working with Dung said that it is hard to draw on lotus leaf veins so the artists must have skillful drawing techniques.

With an ambition to introduce unique artworks to international friends, Kieu Cao Dung has also combined lotus leaves with traditional products such as non la (conical hats), Dong Ho paintings and calligraphy. Dung and his friends have turned the simple lotus leaves into fully traditional folk artworks.

The artworks have received positive feedback from domestic and foreign customers which motivates Dung to continue to do his paintings on lotus leaves.

Artworks from lotus leaves:

Story: Ngan Ha – Photos: Khanh Long

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