A picture made from cooking smoke and bamboo by Vu Quoc Su (Photo: VNA)

A 54-year-old farmer in Xuan An ward, Long Khanh township of southern Dong Nai province has made his name known in the artist circles with his unique pictures made from cooking smoke and bamboo.

Unlike other painters, Vu Quoc Su uses bamboo, cooking smoke, a needle, a small knife and a grindstone to create his works of art. He calls them smoke pictures.

Despite being a farmer with no training in art, Su has produced pictures that are admired by a number of well-known artists.

He said he started his career in the arts by chance. In 2007, he came to help repair a friend’s kitchen. When they took shiny black bamboo down from the roof, a piece was scratched, revealing its white stalk.

With his talent and fertile imagination, Su carved a portrait on the piece of bamboo. That was when the idea of drawing pictures from smoke was generated.

He takes time to find suitable bamboo stalks and splits them into splints two-fingers in width. The splints are woven to make the base for the pictures and then put above a cooking stove to be smoked for three months to attain the right colour.

Smoking is the main step of the whole process. Only when the bamboo is covered with a shiny black coat, can Su start drawing.

Creating a picture from smoke is not as easy as drawing on paper. At first, Su etches small lines with a needle, then he scrapes off the black smoke layer using a small knife.

The most difficult part is creating depth for the painting, he said. The painter needs to know which part has to be scraped deeply or lightly to create the right tones.

Su’s pictures are bought by art-loving people at a high price. He said the lowest price for his pictures is now 20 million VND (953 USD).

His reproduction of the Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo de Vinci sold for 80 million VND (3,810 USD) recently.

So far, farmer Vu Quoc Su has created hundreds of paintings in his own style. He said at present, he is experimenting with making smoke pictures using other materials like mica, glass and plastic.

Su’s pictures are not only unique but highly praised for their artistic merit by other painters. In 2012, he was presented with a handicraft award by the Dong Nai provincial People’s Committee.

His art works have been showcased at a number of exhibitions in Hanoi , central Hue city and Ho Chi Minh City . Su has also registered a brand name for his paintings.

Since starting his smoke pictures, he has nurtured a great wish. He said: “My biggest dream is to create more in order to popularise the art of drawing smoke pictures. I believe that one day, Vietnamese bamboo and cooking smoke will become renowned all over the world through smoke pictures. In the coming time, I will open a gallery in Ho Chi Minh City to wards this goal.”-VNA