Dear Art Toolkit Community,
As the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, I often grapple with feelings of guilt when it comes to taking leisure time for myself. However, with experience and age, I’ve come to realize the profound significance of carving out these moments for leisure, self-reflection, and creative expression, especially for immigrant children like me.
In my last blog post, “Local Café Outing: A Date with Myself and My Palette,” I shared how I make time for painting in my busy schedule, highlighting how local coffee shops can be a great sanctuary to paint in especially if you do not have the space at home and need a new change of scenery.
Today, I want to share another local café outing, this time to Hello Em, a charming café in Seattle’s Little Saigon. Additionally, I’m excited to introduce you to some of my favorite painting spots in Chinatown and Little Saigon in the hope you, too, will venture out and find a quiet space to paint there.
Chinatown holds a special place in my heart because that’s where my parents and grandparents would shop at Viet-Wah for the ingredients to make traditional Vietnamese dishes never found in American grocery stores like Safeway and QFC.
To this day, I love exploring its colorful streets, adorned with traditional Chinese calligraphy, and savoring the enticing aroma of authentic cuisine, like the wonton noodles at Mike’s Noodle House. Hing Hay Park, right across from the restaurant, offers a wonderful outdoor painting spot, allowing me to immerse myself in the neighborhood’s energy.
Eastern Cafe is another great café to paint in next to the Seattle Pin Ball Museum on Maynard. They also display local artist work if you are looking for a place to showcase your artwork.
The atmosphere inside Hello Em exudes a sense of history and community, displaying the journey of Vietnamese migration to Seattle as well as a wall mapping where the coffee beans come from in Vietnam.
Accompanying this wall is local artwork, ceramics, and poetry. There is even a community library with books you can check out by AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islanders) artists and authors.
For me, leisure time is not just a momentary escape but an opportunity to honor my heritage, embrace my identity, and find deeper meaning in my creative journey. It allows me to unravel my thoughts and feelings, providing a clearer understanding of who I am and my place in the world.
Below you can find photos of the two paintings I created while in this space. I experimented with ground coffee beans for my painting of cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee with condensed milk). The coffee grounds created a fun pigmentation seen in the first image of my sketchbook.
In middle school, I learned geography through painting the maps. Through carefully drawing the outlines, I visually imprint the geography in my mind.
As artists, it’s essential to recognize the significance of leisure time, not just as an escape from the daily grind but as a pathway to self-discovery and growth. The act of creating art allows us to unravel our thoughts and feelings, giving us a better understanding of ourselves and our place in the world.
I encourage each of you to explore your local surroundings and their history, seek out places that resonate with your cultural heritage or personal identity, and use them as a canvas for your creative expressions. Whether it’s through sketching, painting, writing, or any other form of art, let this leisure time be a celebration of who you are and a testament to the progress you’ve made on your creative journey.