Wednesday, August 3, 2016


I call myself an artist. What does that even mean? It so pretentious. I don't know. I do know, I'm compelled to draw, paint and create. What am I making? I create things that inspire me that I enjoy making with no other voice but my own. But my work is all over the place with no plan laid out. Maybe I should make plans but that is not fun. I do that at work. I don't know. Going to sleep. Insomnia sucks. I'm writing nonsense right now. I can write nonsense because no one reads this. Which is cool.   

Sunday, July 3, 2016


Can't seem to find my way out of this mental fog I'm in. Not able to see beyond the windowsill. Forgot how a pencil feels against paper. It's not that I don't want to draw or paint. Just can't seem to sit down for a long period of time anymore. I use to get lost in the work. Of late I get lost in stray thoughts that would landslide into wasted time. Maybe I should not fight this let it run it course?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Story of My Mother

A block of ice and a small bag of sugar

We were having lunch one Saturday at a Vietnamese restaurant. As usual my mother was asking her usual question, “Nhan how are you and your girlfriend?”

“We’re fine”

“Does she love you?” she gives me that nosey look.

“I don't know, Mah.” Remembering the last time she asked me, yesterday.

Seeing my irritation, she changes the subject slightly. She talks of how different life is when you marry. Then she looks off to my right as if that’s where her memory was. She recalls what it was like to live with her mother-in- law, how her mother-in- law and my oldest aunt went to the market to buy food and shop for new clothes in the spring time. She said they got her a used dress - small and ugly. My mother had to smile and take it. She had to say “cam on,” (thank you) and act grateful for such a gift, because a good wife does not complain. She pauses to turn and look at me. I look back at her. Then I looked for the bill. What I really wanted to do was jump out of my seat and run away. She looks off to the right again. She kept on repeating that it was very hard, “kho lam.” She did all the hard work and never complained. I asked “where was dad in all of this”. My mother said my dad didn’t understand. Then she began to explain that when you marry someone, you make sure that person really loves you - loves you more than her family. “Put each other first” I think she was trying to lecture. We left the restaurant I drove down Valley Blvd her in the passenger seat. It was quiet for several minutes and then she broke the silence with a question,

“Do you remember Indonesia?”


“You were too small,” she pauses, still just looking ahead.

“I remember we had to make our own hut from sheets and wood from the boat, you were four. Do you remember?’

“No Mah”

“Kho lam. We didn’t have very much money. We were afraid to spend money because we didn’t know how long we were going to be there.” This time her voice cracked as she paused. She looked forward but it was not the road that she saw. It was a place in her memory. 

“We were lucky,” she said “you and your sister didn’t get sick. Other people that came with us were sick some died.” She stalled in thought and then looked out the side window.

“Your father was sick. He almost died,” she turns back to the road.

“I had to earn money. Your aunt Thrinh and I decided to go to the mountain to buy fruit to sell. At that time your aunt was unmarried, remember? We went up to the mountain to buy fruit from the farmers and then we were going to sell it at the market place. The farther we went, the cheaper the fruits. We had to go across a bridge and then up the mountain. Once we got there we had to tie the fruits to a wooden pole. That was the only way we could carry it across our backs. Then we sold it in the market for a little profit.” She turns to me.

“You know ‘che’, the sweet rice desert?”


“Your aunt wanted to buy some.” She turns and smiles at me but her voice was still shaky.

“I didn’t want che.” Her smiles turn to tears so fast that they catch me by surprise.

“I couldn’t eat... thinking of you and your sister there hungry.” She is crying now.

“I couldn’t eat thinking of you and your sisters, kho lam, kho lam (it was so very hard).” I put my left hand on the wheel take my right hand off the wheel and put it on her shoulder. I wonder if I would have cried if I were not driving. She finished the story with tears and pauses to wipe her nose. She never bought any che but instead bought a block of ice and small bag of sugar. What she did was make snow cones, for all of us waiting at the makeshift refugee camp, my sisters, my sick father, and myself.

After her story I was numb. I looked at the road… what I saw was the road of black concrete and cars. No memory no story.

When I got home that night I was flooded with so many thoughts and images. I was gasping for air. My head was light, my heart was sinking. I grabbed my sketchbook. I had to write, draw, scribble, doodle, smear -whatever my pen can produce. These are some of the words that fell to paper.

If I could

As I drive us from lunch

You share a tale of sacrifices with tear filled eyes

I listen

I want to be your mouth

I will find the words that you have hidden in your past

To tell the truth you share

Let me talk of sacrifices made in love

Put your mind at ease

I will be your voice in this foreign land

I will talk of journeys past

Trials overcome, tears shed, pains felt, wounds hidden

Let me shout in this nation of immigrants

I will utter the words you could not

I will speak with confidence and conviction

Unashamed of what I will say

I want to be your hands

To bring you pride

To fulfill your dreams

I will be an extension of you

You will be the source of my inspiration


My Mah shared a piece of her history. Usually these stories are accompanied by shouting and abusive
language intended to teach me a lesson in family, sacrifice, or thankfulness. These types of lessons
mostly fall on uncaring ears and rolling eyes. These stories that I have heard a thousand times before
became real. I started to remember. The little flashes of my memory from when I was four became clear in focus like a dirty lens that has been finally washed. I believe that it happened I was there I was part of that journey. I lived in the refugee camp. I slept in a boat. Felt the cold of  rocky roads.

From that moment on I saw my Mah with new eyes, as if I was a child again -seeing her feed me for the first time, seeing her bathe me for the first time. She was no longer the nosey woman with the
questions, no longer the critical woman but a woman from the pages of history, our history, one that
holds her family together by her sacrifices.

I look now around my room. I see a warm bed, three pairs of shoes and a computer, the product of a
block of ice.

Monday, April 11, 2016


I've been looking at my body of work in the past couple of years. Seeing my growth, failures and misdirection. I need to reset. I feel like I was a man coming out of the desert and drank too much water. Wanting something I needed but loosing site of what is required to move on. 
There is so much we want to do and learn. We forget we can't do it all at once.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Photo Real

People say to me "that looks so real" or "that doesn't look real". I never understood why you would say that about someone's art work. If I want it to look like a photograph. I would use a photo. Photographers are trying to capture a moment, steal an emotion or reveal a truth in their image. I try to do the same. I wish I was more successful at it but that is what I aspire to do. Try to make something look real is in the back of my mind.
I guess if people are looking at my work and thinking something doesn't look real then I failed to communicate.
But if people only come to look at art to only compare how realistic something looks. Please go look at a photo. Look at my art the way I intend it to be. A conversation between creator and viewer.

Thursday, December 31, 2015


Dreaming fills the gaps in our soul. Allows us to be prophets, fortune tellers, and sages. 
I talked with a friend about the new year and he had no plans, he did not care to have one. It was sad to me. He was happy enough. He did not feel the need to look pass his nose, around the bend or over the hill. I'm not sure when it happen or how it happen but he just stop dreaming.
I dream everyday maybe too much. It makes me smile when thinking of something new to try. How it's going to turn out. What I'm going to learn. The fun to be had. I'm smiling now thinking of the New Year!!! So many possibilities, so many Dreams to come true and so many things to learn.  

Monday, November 16, 2015

The thing you can't teach or learn

I've been teaching my first art class at MICA. One thing I notice that is very clear -you cannot teach Drive.
Through teaching I was hoping to spark an interest in animation/art. A spark will die if not fanned, fed and cared for. It can never consume a life if time is not allowed to be poured into it.
I don't know the exact moment for me that art became my fire. It is a cliche but so true for me, I've always love drawing. English was my second language so picture is an easier form of communication. Lines, shapes and colors became my grammar. Pictures became my sentences. I always didn't know what to say and fumbled with my words but the desire to speak was always present.
I look at my students sometimes wanting to fan the spark for them. Wanting to force time into a spark that might not even be there. I see so much potential and talent behind their art. I cannot teach them the drive it will take to be an artist. I can only hope and watch.
Just need to continue to beat that rock and maybe some day something will happen. :)