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Meet illustrator from Viet Nam, Thai My Phuong aka Tamypu.


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in a seaside city, a happy daughter of a musician and a reporter. From the age of 18 years old, I enjoyed five wonderful years at the University of Architecture, HCMC, Vietnam. I spent two unforgettable years studying MA Sequential Art and Illustration at the University of Brighton, UK while deeply in love with various activities related to education, publishing, social work, and charity fields for more than a decade.

I’m a mom of two cats, working full-time at a small studio in HCMC; I aim to publish, create, and illustrate 100 picture books during my life, and currently, have achieved more than 1/4 of it.


I simply love to communicate with visual and narrative forms, in which, imaginations and thoughts can say hello to the souls of the world at any time  ^ ^


Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

Though my hometown is Da Nang city, I do feel Ho Chi Minh City is my home. Because of work, I travel quite a lot to different continents. The more I visit new countries, the more I love my home city.


It’s not a perfect city to live in if you base it on some facts and charts about it: high population, pollution, hot weather, poverty, dirty pavements, street stealers, etc. However, I do keep my philosophy: if you only see the bad, you live life badly. So, instead of worrying about the imperfect conditions, I do love the people, the variety, and the generosity of Ho Chi Minh City.


Imagine if you come here to visit, you may find the city too busy and hiding the greenness of its nature. However, you may fall in love with people’s smiles. Friendly people welcome you with a smile and a happy feeling no matter how hard the weather is or how much troubles they are facing. They kindly appreciate a meal of only under a dollar and passionately share this even when they do not have much to give. You will find people giving free ice tea bottles on the streets to hardworking workers under the hot sun, or giving free meals or gifts to homeless people without special reason some days per month. These are a few among the many reasons why I feel so proud to be part of this city.


The more I visit new countries, the more I love my home city.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

I think both the best and worst are just the colors of any city. As I’ve mentioned in the question above, I chose to see the best and excited to describe the best mostly. If I just think of the worst, then it won’t be possible for me to stay here for more than 10 years.


Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.


I still get lost and feel like I’m on the dating-stage with the city each day without feeling bored. This city can also be rainy in some areas but not the whole city.



There are new problems every day and new city immigrations every month. I find many contrasts to living here.



We have a rich cultural heritage as well as an international cultural mix. The citizens here are very optimistic and we also have a stable comfortable weather every night. You may ask how this all connects to being a creative? All these things give me ideas, feelings, topics, and issues to solve and think of every day.


How did you start your career in art?

My career path can be described shortly with 3 stages: an empty wall, a schoolgirl who loved business, and a poor student.

My first project was an empty wall and few old notebooks during childhood time. I seriously started my childhood career from the opportunity of staying home alone. I was a fan of the Little Mermaid from Disney, and a fan of the ocean where I was living next to. With chalk and my loyal audience, my parents, I composed a lot of fish stories on our walls.

At the age of 16, my question was: how can I make money from my passion for drawing? To understand the retail field, I made handmade bracelets but wasn’t really successful. Each spent 5 hours to finish and it took 5 days to have my first customer. The second business I had was making private pop-up cards to help my friends express their feelings to crushes better. Then I had the seasonal flower services during teacher’s day. Unfortunately, all activities above didn’t meet my target to have stable finances, but it confirmed a passion to live a creative life. So I moved to HCMC to study design and bring real benefits to the life I wished to have.

At 19 years old, having difficulties with being a fresh student in a new city, Ho Chi Minh gave me new braveness. I took a job which was not relevant to what I’m learning at the university: illustrating a book instead of designing furniture, interior spaces, or buildings. This led me to the world of various knowledge and stories and satisfied my desire to contribute and widen my imagination. In addition, it was subconsciously connected with one of my bad memories as a child. I was a book thief at the age of 5 or 6. I stole a fairy tale book in the trash and was embarrassed by our neighbor for it. Twenty years later, I become a person who creates books.

For now, I do enjoy all level of activities which are relevant to creativity and art, especially teaching design and visual narration. I read stories that have a purpose. I love teaching. It is a way for art and imagination pieces to fly to many souls, leave a part of thought, and help someone transform their ideas better.


My career path can be described shortly with 3 stages: an empty wall, a schoolgirl who loved business, and a poor student.


Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

Both! Some people are very supportive and some are not. They are both important to help me confirm my direction better.

I heard comments like: “Your big dream can kill you!”, “If things become too difficult, go back to your family who will care for you”, “Do you think your artworks are really valuable to society?”, “You are my inspiration, you are my idol”, “How can an artist be rich with those jobs?” “People will all die one day, but their art will live forever. So, go ahead with your dream!”, etc.

It will be more comfortable if I only have compliments and support from family, friends, students, and audience. However, I appreciate the importance of opposing thoughts. They give me a chance to look back and the strength and motivation to walk my way confidently. In a world where people can easily get satisfied, overwhelming support can blow up the ego – which is the main reason why creators stop creating better.


What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

I change or develop plans often, so I’m not very sure about my current answer. But I have a feeling that eventually all the different fields I have experienced will be merged together to help me navigate and complete the ambitions I have for all.

I’m not a ‘one dream’ type of person, instead, I always do new adventures as well as new knowledge. However, the more I work in different fields, the more I found that they all have a similar purpose: sharing real failures/lessons and inspiring people daily. What ambition can combine my creative side and my love for sharing? It can be through writing a method book, establishing a publication, organization, workshops, or a school. And, for the purpose to become true or not, I can only surely tell after I share my values to the people I meet, which can be my clients, students, strangers, cats, etc.  Any day can be a new lesson and I am both a teacher and a learner with happy things to share.


If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

I would like to share two cases:

One: Some admired and well-known people who committed suicide because of depression. I won’t mention the names but only the common things about them. They worked in the creative field and was successful in most continents. They had strong inspiring voices but suffered the burden of not being able to speak about their true troubles.

If I had the chance to be their friend, I would love to listen to them and communicate simple words through daily supportive doodles or simple drawings. I can share art therapy since I also had some time being sunk in depression that I luckily overcame with my own daily drawings. I just hope to be there when someone truly needs a hand.


Two: Orphan children from different continents. It’s really hard to know what they are actually thinking and who they can become. They were born in different circumstances. I want to honestly transfer their thoughts and their inner struggles into comic books/graphic novels (not from the subjective opinions and imaginations of an author) so their voices can be a reminder to next generation parents.


The two options are not really about collaborating, to me, any art connection or purpose is a new and beautiful friendship.


How would you describe the women around you?

They are beautiful. Some of them need time to realize how beautiful and unique they are.

They are the future. They fight for their rights and this leads to the development of their self which brings a lot of value to society (not only with women’s rights)

They are also the circle of life, creating better generations.

They are fighters, being a mom is one of the ‘hardest jobs’ and I hope all moms should proud of themselves.


All mentioned above are just my thoughts. I would love to describe them using art:

Women around me are metaphors with palettes. They are not the final artwork but without them, the final artwork cannot be completed.


And in real life, I cannot be described. Women cannot be described by another person but only by themselves.


Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

None. I think creativity has no gender. To me, creative work itself is kindness which shows out through imagination and solution. And everyone can have this beautiful purpose to life no matter the gender.

If I may look up to someone, it is usually because the person is honest with themselves, accept their dark and bright sides, and still be able to make the decision to live and contribute better every day. For example, this writer (I won’t mention her name) had a big scandal during her young life. She escaped and re-built her positive influences and eventually, she became a successful mom of lovely children. She also became a better writer in her new books/stories. To me, this kind of woman is real and deserves high respect. A woman herself should not be the illusion of perfection to society’s standards. To me, we can not judge people with a single moment of success or failure, but with the whole adventure of transformation.


Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

It is not about being female but about the biased roles that trap us for decades. Our history shows that society has a lot of bias against women and escaping this for our freedom to be freely creative is the root challenge. I think this not only goes to the creative industry but also in other fields.


Be patient. Don’t be pressured by the success of the people around you.


Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

I am just repeating what I advised myself when I was young and I hope this helps:

Be yourself.

Create for a good purpose.

Your ego can be the enemy.

Your overwhelming emotions can be good for ideas and motivations but they can also be obstacles which limit you in terms of communicating to your network and team. Good art and creative work need to bring good solutions to many people and therefore it needs to be done by many people, not just yourself.

Be patient. Don’t be pressured by the success of the people around you. We only see the final results and we don’t know how hard they worked or the years they cried. I hope you can work hard and be patient and maybe in the next years, maybe someone will come to ask you: “I admire your artworks, how can I be successful like you?”



Photos courtesy of Tamypu