The portrait season has now peaked at historical and cultural sites in Hanoi, such as Van Mieu (Temple of Literature) and Hoan Kiem Lake.

During Tet, the traditional lunar New Year which is the longest and the most important annual festival in Vietnam, enterprising professional and amateur painters and fine arts students can earn as much as 1 million VND (47 USD) a day from creating portraits for passers-by. Latest statistics show that Vietnam's average annual per capita income in 2013 is 1,960 USD.

Andy Brian from Australia admired a sketch by painter Nguyen Minh Dat. Not only was Dat's sketch beautiful, Brian said, but the price of 100,000 VND to 300,000 VND was also attractive.

Dat earns 12-15 million VND each spring, when many local and foreign travellers visit the capital.

"I'm very happy because the career helps me continue my job and get some income," said Dat.

Dao Thi Tuyet Hong from Ho Chi Minh City got her portrait sketched for the first time and was pleased with the decision: "The painter sketches very well. The girl in the sketch really looks like me! I will hang it on the wall in my home."

Nguyen Thanh Vinh, a third-year student at the Hanoi University of Architecture, said he had been doing street portraits for more than a year.

"Unlike my friends, who are interested in doing extra jobs at companies, I choose to make sketches in my free time at Dong Xuan Market. But this spring I moved to Van Mieu, where thousands of guests visit. Sometimes I have to work until 2am, but I earn between 1-3 million VND a day," said Vinh. Last Tet, he earned 10 million VND a week – enough for a student budget.

"Portrait sketch requires a painter with patience and a sense of detail. All details are important, but most important are the eyes because they reveal the soul of the character," said Nguyen Ly Bang, a student from the Hanoi University of Fine Arts.

But Pham Phuong also from the University of Fine Arts said many of her friends, particularly female ones, had given up this job because they could not endure the cold, windy weather.-VNA