Viet Nam News
By Thùy Hương
Every afternoon from Monday to Friday, little children throng artist Phúc An’s small house in Thạnh Đức Commune in the southern province of Long An to learn how to paint. The house is taken on rent from a retired teacher by the artist for the past two years.
The four walls of the small house are filled with paintings, while the children absorb themselves in every stroke, under the thorough guidance of the artist.
The number of students in An’s class fluctuates around 50. They are divided into groups based on their painting capacity.
An starts the lessons in the living room, in which several sample paintings of fish are on display.
“This is a group of beginners, so I have to teach them to draw basic straight lines. It looks difficult at first but after getting hold of the technique, they are able to paint proficiently,” he says, pointing to a group of children.
The end product of each child might vary in style, but they share a similarity: harmonious colour mixing.
“Colour mixing plays an important role in a painting, but it’s difficult to learn it methodologically. In my class, the children are taught the basic mixing technique with basic colours such as blue, red or yellow to create a harmoniously coloured painting,” An says.
"Besides honing the skills of the students, the artist also teaches them moral lessons about proper behaviour. As they learn to become meticulous with each stroke of the brush, they learn to be careful and patient in life."
The nearly 50 students in An’s class, despite their different ages, share a keen interest in painting, which has been the motivation for An to spend time and effort to conduct the free painting classes over the past two years.
“I did not think about opening this class before. A year ago, seeing my son paint beautifully, his teacher asked me about it, knowing that I am a painter. After that, some of his classmates in his kindergarten came to my house, and I taught them for free. Then more and more kept coming; so I decided to open a class,” An recalls. “Seeing their interest in painting, I spent more time teaching them. I want to pass down my passion for art to them.”
Fifth grader Nguyễn Trần Nhã Trúc is among the best students in his class. It is easy to see her meticulousness and attentiveness to the paintings.
“I have been learning in teacher An’s class for quite a long time. He has taught me every stroke and how to mix colours harmoniously. The more I painted, the more interested I became, so I asked my mother to take me to his class every afternoon,” Trúc says.
Besides students who are art enthusiasts, many who wish to improve their grade in art at school also come to An for extra coaching. After attending the class for a while, their paintings have shown much improvement.
The free painting class has also received much support from parents.
“It is so good to have a free painting class in the rural area. Therefore, I always make time to take my child to this class every day. Especially, during the summer holidays, this class has become an interesting playground for rural children,” says Trần Thị Song, a local mother.
Since October last year, An has opened an extra class in the commune’s house of culture, increasing the number of students he teaches to 100, and even 150 during this summer holiday.
Early this year, after being hospitalised twice due to gastritis, which has affected his health, he had to reduce his lessons on Fridays.
“The students always ask me for permission when they are off to prepare for their exams at school. They come to my house every afternoon without fail. One day when it was raining heavily, I thought they wouldn’t come but then suddenly they flocked to my house together,” An says.
Many of his students have won awards in painting contests. For example, 12-year-old twins Ngọc Trâm and Quỳnh Trâm won consolation prizes in a contest jointly held by General Office for Population Family Planning and DKT Vietnam in 2017 and a second prize in lantern painting held by Thạnh Đức Commune in Mid-Autumn Festival in the same year. VNS