Arty teenager turns over a new leaf

May 01, 2023 - 08:08
From jackfruit and Bodhi leaves, Lê Quang Vinh, a student of Lục Ngạn 3 High School, has hand-carved hundreds of art pieces that are portraits of renowned figures or images inspired by nature.
Lê Quang Vinh (2nd left) is pictured during an interview with Vietnam Television. Photo courtesy of VTV

by Lương Thu Hương

A 12th grader in the northern province of Bắc Giang is popular in his neighbourhood for not only his academic excellence but also ability to create lively artworks from leaves.

From jackfruit and Bodhi leaves, Lê Quang Vinh, a student of Lục Ngạn 3 High School, has hand-carved hundreds of art pieces that are portraits of renowned figures or images inspired by nature.

The 18-year-old discovered the leaf carving art by chance and got hooked on it after seeing a beautifully carved artwork made from maple leaves by a foreign artist on YouTube in 2021. He then started to learn the techniques online and create the first piece of his own.

At first, he tried carving simple images on unblemished leaves that were neither too thin nor too thick. After many failures and discarding countless leaves, Vinh found that jackfruit and Bodhi leaves were the most suitable canvas for his works.

“Both of the leaves are easy to find. Each has unique veins, so if I perform on two jackfruit leaves, I will have two entirely different pictures,” Vinh said.

The appropriate leaves will have their midribs removed to make them flatter and thinner. After being dried, they are ready for use.

Vinh’s tools simply include a paper knife and a fruit knife. Creating leaf art takes time and a steady hand. He will first print or make a sketch of the picture on a paper sheet and then stick it to the dried leaf, meticulously and gently use the knife to carve each line until a complete picture is created.

It is more sophisticated to create artworks based on colour images. Vinh has to reprocess the image to the traditional black and white colour gamut for sharpness, then outline the content of the picture on paper. It takes him about three to four hours to make a complete leaf hand-carving while the most complicated work takes nearly 24 hours to finish.

Each leaf carving will then be laminated in thin transparent plastic to prevent dampness for long-term preservation.

Among his nearly 1,000 carvings, the most impressive ones are portraits of renowned figures like President Hồ Chí Minh and General Võ Nguyên Giáp, as well as landscapes and animal figures.

A portrait of President Hồ Chí Minh on a leaf created by Vinh. Photo courtesy of Lê Quang Vinh

A football fan, Vinh has also created many portraits of celebrated players such as Neymar and Messi.

He said the most challenging part is depicting the eyes and catching charisma in a portrait. He therefore has to spend hours observing every detail on the figures' faces before embarking on the work. Landscapes are also not easy, as they contain many complicated and small details that demand particularly meticulous carving.

The hobby helps the 12th grader to relax and satisfy his passion for art. The artworks have also become meaningful gifts for Vinh’s friends and relatives on special occasions. He has also received many orders from netizens who are impressed by his carvings shared on the internet and want to buy them. Each leaf picture usually costs from VNĐ150,000-200,000 (US$6.3-8.5).

Portrait of Brazilian football player Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior. Photo courtesy of Lê Quang Vinh

From the initial success of carving pictures on jackfruit and Bodhi leaves, he is planning to experiment on other types of leaves of fruit trees from his hometown, such as oranges, pomelos and lychees.

Nguyễn Thị Thu Hường, Vinh’s headteacher at school, said: “Besides the gift for leaf carving art, Vinh is also an excellent and responsible student with regular participation in school activities.”

She also added that she was happy and surprised to receive a special gift from Vinh. “It is a charming landscape carved on a leaf that has been carefully laminated. I have placed the picture on my desk,” Hường said.

It takes Vinh about three to four hours to finish a leaf artwork. Photo courtesy of Lê Quang Vinh

At present, Vinh is concentrating on preparing for his high school graduation exam. He wishes to major in mechanical engineering or architecture to satisfy his passion for creativity.

“I also hope to have the opportunity to learn more about the art form so that I can create more complex and technical works in the future,” he said. VNS

Vinh's leaf carvings are often inspired by famous figures and cartoon characters. Photo courtesy of Lê Quang Vinh