Published on 01 Aug 2021

The art of observation

An animator and illustrator by profession, NTU alumna Nguyen Thi Nam Phuong (ADM/2012) always keeps her paintbrush and sketchpad handy in the hope of capturing new views of life around her and helping to inspire her creativity.

By Sean Shagaran

“I don’t consider myself an artist, I’m simply doing what I like. I sketch because I love to look at life around me,” said NTU alumna Nguyen Thi Nam Phuong (ADM/2012).

At Nanyang View 

Nanyang View – one of six faculty housing clusters located within NTU’s residential zone (Photo credit: @tutistudio)


For Phuong, practising art has always been a part of her everyday life. Having a father who was an artist, Phuong remembers being frequently exposed to art, especially painting, when she was growing up.

“When I was young, I never thought I would be practising art. It took me a while to decide if I really wanted to pursue it or if it was just my father’s influence,” she said.

While she initially chose to follow in her father’s footsteps and obtained a Diploma in Painting from the Fine Art University of Ho Chi Minh City before starting an Arts undergraduate programme in the same university, Phoung eventually dropped out to continue her studies in Singapore, where she picked up her true passion, animation. 

“I chose animation because I wanted to see my drawings and paintings come to life,” said Phuong.

Phuong has worked as the animator for the Community Engagement Team at NTU’s Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) for the past eight years. She has produced animated short films, documentaries, interactive educational games, and scientific explanation animations.

In her free time, Phuong still paints and sketches. Describing herself as “a very quiet person who is not so sociable”, she feels that her work, which involves sketching and painting from close observation, is her way of communicating with the people and objects around her.

“The art I practise has helped me become a better communicator. Through my work, I have met people who tell me about new places to sketch and as such, I have made many new friends with a similar passion for sketching,” she said.

Having sketched and painted NTU buildings before, Phuong shared with us her favourite campus locations and why she chooses to create these visually appealing works of art.

“The School of Art, Design and Media building for its iconic structure, Pioneer Hall, for its design and architecture, and the Yunnan Garden, for its greenery.”

“For me, every corner of NTU is interesting because of the way it balances its buildings and greenery. From any building you are in, you can step out and witness beautiful sceneries, which is why I choose to produce the art I do,” explained Phuong.

Catching a quick cat nap at NTU’s Pioneer Hall.
Lush greenery can be seen from anywhere in NTU, even from the seats next to Nanyang Auditorium. A bird’s-eye view of NTU’s Yunnan Garden, a vast space filled with greenery and waterscapes.
Sustainably designed as a wetland, NTU’s Pioneer Hall seamlessly integrates nature and man-made elements.
Creatively inspired by the people and things around her, Phuong captures everyday life even while having lunch at The Quad Café.A self-sustaining ecosystem, the Yunnan Garden is also home to multiple species of animals, including fish that eat up excess algae.