Cover design for the first issue of the army magazine in 1961. A watercolour by Pham Thanh Tam.

Tam was enrolled at the Institute of Fine Arts in Hanoi while maintaining his military commission. This College was the new manifestation of the same prestigious art school originally established by the French in the 1920's. The legacy of the traditional European approach to life drawing and painting with its origins in the Renaissance, was maintained and coupled with classical academy teaching. The coupling blended with the Vietnamese artistic spirit and produced remarkable results witnessed in the works of a generation of which Pham Thanh Tam and Le Lam, among others, provide spectacular and enduring examples.

In 1964, Tam was sent on a field drawing trip from the College to Ha Long Bay. The work above is one example of his observations. Below, a coastal battery crew poses at rest for the artist. Note how, with a few deft touches, a face comes alive under the artist's hand.