Vietnam in new style of capture
British sketch artist Richie Fawcett has been living and working in Vietnam for almost three years, but it’s only in this past year that he, and everyone around him, has begun taking his inherent drawing skills seriously. Richie initially ventured to Vietnam to open a variety of bars and restaurants – something he’s spent a fantastic 15 years doing around the world.
Richie soon realised, however, how lucky he was to be in a country where he was surrounded by a visual feast, a photographer’s dream.
As a professional photographer in London in the late 90s Richie had been searching for an alternative way to capture the essence of the street scenes that had always intrigued him. Using a camera seemed far too easy - there was no reason for him to stay in the same spot and analyse a scene for hours on end.
At that point, Richie drudged up his long lost, and virtually unknown, talent and begun sketching his favourite street scenes and cityscapes.
Richie’s time in Vietnam, especially living in central Saigon, is what reignited his interest in sketching. Being able to capture the vibrancy of the people and culture gave him renewed energy to physically realise the way in which people live and work in the rapidly changing urban landscape of Saigon.
Another aspect that has motivated him to start sketching again, is his appreciation for history and the fact at Saigon, especially, is developing so quickly; many of the old historic buildings of central Saigon have been torn down to make way for new developments.
Although the sites of these developments are often left untouched for years, it’s prompted him to capture the life of the city’s old streets before they’re lost forever. A specific instance of this can be seen in Richie’s four original drawings of Ben Thanh Market - North, South, East and West.
These were drawn because there is a building development opposite that will one day obstruct the view of the Museum of Fine Arts – a favourite and, thus, a place in which he has spent countless hours exploring. In fact, he’s spent so much time in and around this building that the staff know him commonly as Waisee . There’s always an exchange of smiles, “Xin chao,” and, “Have a look at what I’m drawing today.”
Richie often gets the same reactions when people catch him drawing a scene: they’re either really excited, “Dep dep dep!” or they im/mediately stop talking, have a seat and stare for ages. It’s a brilliant, and yet disarming, way in which he connects with the community. His connection goes as far as the street sellers who actually stop hassling him after seeing him frequent the same spot hour after hour – they’ve even been known to stop working and sit next to him while he draws.
Richie’s sketches now take an average of 4 - 5 continuous hours. This may seem like a long time, but in the beginning they would take weeks, even months, of dedicated time going back and forth to the same spot each day. The result of this work is a collection of panoramic cityscapes in pencil, pen, ink and Chinese ink wash.
His style of work begins with a skyline, and ends with the characterisation of the people in the landscape. He has a second small pocket sketchbook crammed full of countless individual characters going about their daily tasks.
Since beginning his sketching, Richie has already held a successful solo exhibition at Au Parc titled, ‘Carte Postale de Saigon’ . He has been interviewed for Tuoi Tre TV and has been on the national news, celebrated as a foreigner who appreciates and expresses Vietnamese culture in his own artistic manner. As a result of this exposure, he now has a following of private collectors.
It was on the night of his very first exhibition that he bumped into Patrick Gaveau of City Pass Guide, who happened to be getting a takeaway, but took away an instant interest in Richie’s artwork instead. They im/mediately set a date to meet. The rest, as they say, is history.
Richie went on his first trip to Hanoi during Tet where he managed to produce over 15 panoramic cityscapes in six days. Hanoi has left a fantastic impression on him, and he’ll soon be back to capture the plethora of scenes still available.
He’s currently planning a travelling exhibition, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, exclusively featuring his signature panoramic cityscapes from both Saigon and Hanoi. It will feature both old and new meter-long sketches demonstrating the contrast between two astounding cities in an amazing country.
The exhibition will be shown in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, with dates to be confirmed; watch this space for updates.
In addition to numerous individual commissions from businesses and residencies, Richie is currently working on sketching the vibrancy of Vietnamese life for the 11th edition of the City Pass Guide and for their upcoming website and mobile applications.
He looks forward to continued collaborations with City Pass Guide, where he is able to showcase his work while providing invaluable pieces for the premium travel guide company. And to think, it’s all thanks to a takeaway and a chance meeting.
Authors & Editors: Richie Fawcett & Kendra Bernard