Soulful Rice Paintings

With skillful hands, the artisans graft rice grains together into paintings about the landscape and people, which are imprinted with the Vietnamese soul.
According to artisan Duong Huu Cuong, owner of Ngoc Linh rice painting shop in District 5 of Ho Chi Minh City, rice paintings have been known for less than ten years. However, thanks to their unique form and high artistic value, they have gradually carved a niche in the market.

Cuong has been making rice paintings for nearly ten years, and so far he has accumulated lots of experience in doing this craft. He said that making a rice painting is not very difficult, but making it become a beautiful artwork requires lots of devotion and patience. 

Roasted rice with different colours. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

Creating a sketch for a rice painting. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

Grafting rice on the drawing. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

To make a soulful rice painting, it requires lots of devotion and patience of the artisans. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

In his small workshop, everyday ten people diligently graft the rice grains on the wooden frames. Under their skillful hands, the little grains are shaped into vivid, attractive pieces of art.

Cuong said the grains must be selected carefully, almost all of the same size and whole pieces. Both normal or sticky rice can be used in making the paintings.

The artisan prepares the grains in four main colors – white, yellow, brown and black, by roasting each type under the proper heat. From these four colors, he then can change them into ten different colors.

He then grafts the colored grains with glue on the wooden frame that fit to the draft design. This kind of glue, called “milk” glue, is sticky, durable, easy to dry, and leaves no color on the grains.

The most important step is to combine the colors of the grains in a harmonious way so that when matching together they will turn out a desired artwork.

Time to complete a rice painting depends on its topic and size. Cuong said that it normally takes from six to twelve days for the artisans to make a painting of 80cm x120cm. Last but not least, the final step is to dry the painting under the sun to make the grains attach and the painting more polished. It will also help protect the painting.

Cuong said the life of a rice painting normally lasts for about ten years, so its price is rather expensive.

Rice paintings about the landscape and people of Vietnam. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

The topics for rice painting are diverse – landscapes, portraits,
religious themes and calligraphic art. Photo: Nguyen Luan/VNP

The topics for rice paintings are diverse - landscapes, portraits, religious themes, calligraphic art, abstract theme and animals. Due to its diversity and artistic value, rice paintings are sought after by many tourists, especially foreigners, to take them home as special gifts from Vietnam.

With simple materials, rice paintings are made by skilled artisans with love and passion. This kind of artwork can decorate different kinds of space, especially for the home, as it reflects the host’s friendly and hospitable characters. 
Story: Son Nghia - Photos: Nguyen Luan


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