Sketched in Time

Mai Thi Luu, Saigon:

The Jade Emperor Pagoda in District 1 was riddled with sweaty tourists posing for photos outside the gates. I decided to go for an iced coffee across the street to wait for the throng of Westerners to leave on their buses so I could do some sketches of the famous pagoda. While sipping on my sweet coffee, I was taken with the scene across the road; a quirky run-of-the-mill restaurant with two men happily slurping noodles in the shade. A friendly woman was serving them and also gave a few scraps of food to a street dog. I immediately took out my pencil and sketchpad and started creating some preliminary sketches of this common, everyday Saigon scene. I wanted to replicate each detail— every brick and crack, and letter in the signage. These are the scenes I so easily miss when driving around on the back of a Grab bike, and I was inspired by its commonality.


I went hiking in Sapa a few years ago. Like most tourists, I was drawn to the green terraced rice fields and tiny villages, which reminded me of the Shire from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Children were playing in the mud alongside water buffaloes. One boy climbed onto the back of one of the buffalo, it seemed unfazed by the boy’s presence. The drawing was done from a photograph I took at that time because I didn’t have my sketchbook with me.


Pho Co, Hanoi:

 The Old Quarter in Hanoi is a beautiful juxtaposition of French colonial architecture and Vietnamese culture. As I set off to find a scene to sketch in this historic part of the city, I was inspired by a group of men relaxing by their scooters in the shade of an alleyway. They seemed unfazed by the bustling crowds of tourists or the noisy scooters buzzing past them. I quickly took out my sketchbook to capture one man in particular—he was standing by his scooter taking a break.

Born in South Africa, Louis Barnard uses drawing as a way to understand the different cultures he encounters while  living in Asia. His illustrations capture moments in life that would otherwise go unnoticed. From Korea to Vietnam and portraits to children’s illustrations, see more of Louis’ works at and Instagram: louis123barnard

Illustrations by Louis Barnard



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1 thought on “Sketched in Time”

  1. Louis’ sketches taught me how to look…and eventually how to SEE. His sketches created in me an awareness of the world around me…no matter where I am. I had a foot operation and had to stay put on one place for two months. I decided to LOOK and observe my surroundings through Louis Barnard’s eyes. Never before have I seen such beauty…

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