For the artist Pornchai Lerttamasiri, this was a natural transition. A specialist in watercolours, he wanted to create something fresh and offbeat, something in a new medium. So he turned to coffee. Ever since, his name has climbed the ranks on the international scene. His work has appeared in Portland, Oregon; as part of a group exhibition in South Korea; and three times as a solo exhibition in Singapore.
How did you come up with the idea of coffee painting?
Studying art taught me to think differently – think in ways other people didn’t. I tried many unusual media, such as wine, tea, and fruit, before coming up with the idea to paint with coffee. At first, I used coffee applied to watercolours to get an old and warm look. Then I realized I should just use coffee instead of watercolour. For years, I tried very hard to experiment, and my hard work has finally paid off.
How difficult is it to paint with coffee compared to watercolours?
For me, there isn’t much difference between the two techniques, but coffee painting is a bit more complicated. Coffee gives you elastic textures, which are stickier. That makes it harder to apply the brush as well as to control the tone of the colour. You have to dilute the coffee with the right amount of water. If you use too much coffee, the paint becomes almost like syrup. It may cause cracks to appear, as well as unwanted flakes when the paint dries. Moreover, since the coffee doesn’t dry easily, you have to be very careful; the coffee might peel off the paper, or, even worse, mould might grow on your piece.
Where do you find inspiration?
Art never stops, and neither do I. I work extremely hard and keep practicing every day. Just from working more and more, inspiration seems to pop up automatically. From using only coffee to paint, I’ve come up with many new coffee-related projects, like creating images of dancers wearing skirts made from coffee filters and using coffee to dye silk, giving it a glamorous gold colour. I’ve found a new style, too. After I’ve put paint on the paper, I spritz it with water. This gives the work a foggy, mysterious look. What’s more, I like painting while things are going on around me. I find live events very inspiring.
What work do you have in the pipeline?
I travel around the country quite often. I have an off-road vehicle, so I take my supplies and paint in the great outdoors. I also teach a class during weekdays. Then, every month, my friend and I go upcountry to teach art to children in the name of the Pu Kan San Jorn project. We give them the art supplies they need to get active. We also help to build libraries and art centres in schools.
What is the value of art in contemporary society?
Art makes people happy. It isn’t something difficult to understand. All it requires is an open mind. Allow yourself to feel the beauty of art and you will find it easy to understand and appreciate.
To learn more about Pornchai and his work, contact him at facebook.com/pornchai.lerttamasiri or call 08 1914 4660. Guests can visit his house and studio at 56/230 Soi Muban Phana Son 6, Nimitmai Rd, Klongsamwa, Bangkok.