Hanoi-born Economist Transforms into Painter Overnight

A life-altering event pushed painter Dao Anh Tho to a crossroads, transforming him from a financial expert into an extraordinary artist.


Artist Dao Anh Tho, also known as CAT, started her artistic journey unexpectedly. Originally working as an auditor in Australia, she had no connection to the art world. However, after experiencing a shocking event, she began to see vivid images in her mind and felt compelled to put them on paper.

Her parents, well-known lacquer painter Dao Mai Hien and visual artist Dao Anh Khanh, were surprised by the talent displayed in CAT’s artwork.

Painter Dao Anh Tho (CAT) has a strange attachment to art. Photo courtesy of the artist

CAT grew up surrounded by creativity, but she never paid much attention to it. Although she showed promise in sculpting clay as a child, her true passion lay elsewhere. She pursued a career in finance, studying and working in various countries such as the USA, Japan, China, and Australia.

An original painting in ballpoint pen and its version in lacquer.

However, at the age of thirty, CAT found herself wealthy but deeply dissatisfied. This changed when she experienced an incident that left her disoriented for two consecutive days, blurring the line between life and death. In that vulnerable state, she realized that her purpose was to create art. Inspired by vivid dreams, she picked up a ballpoint pen and started drawing. Her first subjects were faces adorned with princess hats. Day by day, she tirelessly practiced and refined her skill, always using a ballpoint pen.

The painting “White flowers planted by my mother”.

For a whole year, CAT devoted up to 18 hours a day to her drawings, pouring her imagination onto paper. She used a ballpoint pen for economic reasons, refusing to let financial constraints hinder her creativity.

Despite her lack of formal training, CAT’s precision and attention to detail were remarkable. Every line she drew was deliberate and purposeful, reflecting the discipline she had developed through her financial background.

“Her paintings are all done with a ballpoint pen, but there is not a single wrong or misaligned line. Even though I’ve been drawing for many years, I still have to correct mistakes. I can’t explain what happened to CAT,” said her father, painter Dao Anh Khanh.

Two versions of the painting Flowers.

Encouraged by her father, CAT began incorporating colors into her artwork. She learned the art of lacquer from her mother and successfully transformed her ballpoint pen sketches into large-scale lacquer paintings in just a few weeks.

The majority of CAT’s paintings are meticulously crafted in lacquer, showcasing her acute attention to detail. Although they are traditional lacquer paintings, upon close examination, viewers can discern brushstrokes reminiscent of oil paint.

The painting Reflective Dimension.

Currently, CAT creates about 130 lacquer pieces, 190 drawings, and accompanies each artwork with poetry and music.

She plans to unveil her artworks to the public in her first exhibition, titled “MetaReverse – Rebirth,” which will be held on October 22 at 65 Hoang Dieu Street, Hanoi. Through her art, CAT aims to bring people back to the real world and introduce a new creative language that counters the drawbacks of the virtual world.

After the exhibition in Hanoi, CAT intends to showcase her works in Ho Chi Minh City, South Korea, Japan, and other countries.