Meet Vietnamese illustrator currently living in Rome, Camelia Pham.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m your standard 24-year old suffering from the same mental issues that seem to be increasingly common in people my age nowadays. I ended up expressing my anxieties and angst through art, which developed over my time abroad in Poland and Italy.
Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.
I’m currently living in Rome where I have a life comprised mainly of pizza and overpriced rent. I don’t really have the same infatuation with the city that a lot of visitors seem to have, but it’s definitely steeped in culture and has helped me to develop my own style of art. The crowds often get on my nerves and it’s got that big city mentality of everyone for themselves, but there’s a lot of cultural events that I can get into. Also, tasty paninis.
I’m currently living in Rome where I have a life comprised mainly of pizza and overpriced rent.
What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?
The best thing is the atmosphere at my uni. They’re pretty liberal with what they allow me to do and I’ve met a lot of fellow students who can express themselves properly through their art. There’s a long history of art in Rome and few people seem to care about the more modern stuff being produced so it’s a bit of a struggle trying to get yourself noticed.
Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.
Liberating, challenging and eye-opening.
How did you start your career in art?
Just out of passion, I guess. I used to draw all the time during school and my grades really suffered because of it. My mom banned me from all forms of blank paper until my grades improved, but that didn’t stop me from making little comics in textbooks. The actual ‘career’ part didn’t properly kick off until when I went to study abroad; that place gave me a brand new outlook on jagged European art which really resonated with my feeling of living on the other side of the world to my family. My art became a visual way to share my view of the world and a very cathartic way of expressing my negative emotions and making my own peace with them.
My art became a visual way to share my view of the world and a very cathartic way of expressing my negative emotions and making my own peace with them.
Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?
I’m very lucky to have been born to a mom and dad that never learned how to be the typical Asian parents. They are both a little eccentric and embraced my art as my full-time passion quickly enough. I think maybe because they are divorced, which is quite rare in Vietnam, they felt compelled to foster my individuality and hardly ever pushed me into avenues I was uncomfortable with. My artsy friends have been a massive support for me throughout my time in Europe and Vietnam; it’s been refreshing meeting so many people who, like me, are learning to express intensely personal thoughts in the public sphere.
What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?
Well, I’m not complaining about my conditions right now. I’m still an unemployed art student, so all I have right now is time and freedom to experiment, which is really what every artist wants. More and more people are seeing my work every time I post and I couldn’t be happier about that. In the future, I hope to have a book out soon featuring a few of my more connected works, but after that, I’d like a studio where I’m free to create.
In the future, I hope to have a book out soon featuring a few of my more connected works, but after that, I’d like a studio where I’m free to create.
If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?
I’m really bad at collaborating with people with a similar style to me because I often get nervous and competitive when I’m with them. I’d rather work with people who use different mediums like photographers, animators, or writers. My boyfriend is a writer and as cringeworthy as it may sound, I love collaborating with him. I’m hoping we could work on a book together in the future, as well as any other projects that require my innermost thoughts to be spelled out in writing.
How would you describe the women around you?
I’m lucky to be surrounded by inspirational women. Obviously, my mom is a huge inspiration for me – she’s a perfectionist and passionate about everything she does. She doesn’t rely on anyone and that’s sort of what I’m striving for, seeing as my art is so personal to me. Most of all though, she always listens to me and takes an interest in the things I care about – she’s always a mom before she’s a muse.
I’m lucky to be surrounded by inspirational women.
Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?
I can think of two girls who had a big impact on me as an artist. One was Tuyệt Đỉnh Sinh Vật
, who I discovered in high school. She draws very girly things with soft lines and placid colours; not really my style anymore, but the fact that she worked for a teenaged magazine from such a young age was always a big inspiration for me. The other girl is Butaemon
, or Mỹ Anh, who I discovered while at university. She’s completely the opposite of Tuyệt Đỉnh Sinh Vật – all dark tones and controversial subject matter.
Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?
Not all that much, to be honest. I’ve never noticed any disadvantage in being a female artist. I’m lucky to have good exposure and a great agent which has ensured that my art always gets seen, regardless of my gender. The only challenging aspect is perhaps being a female in Vietnam. Views are old fashioned there and women are still expected to take care of the husband and the family – although that’s changing fast. I don’t believe in that at all, and my family is gradually coming around to that.
You’ll never know where this can take you until you start.
Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?
Please keep going and doing what you want to do. Do everything with passion and don’t get tied up in people telling you that you should be doing something else. You’ll never know where this can take you until you start.
Photos courtesy of Camelia Pham.