| Painting with Coffee
- An article in one of Thailand's leading
magazines: “Preaw – Weekend”
Have you ever even thought
about using nice, warm, aromatic coffee in your mug to paint a
painting? Pornchai Lerthammasiri did. As an accomplished
watercolor artist, Pornchai wanted to do something new – more
challenging. Coffee was his choice.
“At first I started to cover
my watercolor painting lightly with coffee to get the old-look
effect. I found that it was very interesting and effective and
continued to experiment – some were good, some were not.”
The technique he talks about
sounds easy, all you need is just coffee mixed with water, a brush and
watercolor paper. Not at all, according to Pornchai, it took him
6 years to master the right texture of coffee and water. If too
much coffee I used, the texture will be too elastic to paint with and
cause unwanted glittering flakes on the paper. Furthermore, it
did not dry easily and the coffee could peel off from the paper or
become molded. After extensive experimentation, I can prove that
my paintings will stay in the same condition even after 6 years now.”
Besides using brushes to
paint, Pornchai also uses a spray bottle filled with water to help
dilute the coffee on the paper.
“When I want to paint
waterfalls or a distant mountain, I use the spray bottle to soften the
pictures. There are various results that only the brush alone
Today, Pornchai can proudly
say that he knows all about coffee painting and the unique effects
coffee painting can make that no other medium can.
“I would like my audience to
see something new and creative, something close to their daily lives
that can be applied to art. It is like giving others a sample of
the challenge. Who knows? After seeing my coffee paintings, some
people may decide to use wine to paint (laugh).”
Interview with Asia-art.net
Thank you for taking time
from your painting to meet with us today.
Q1: How did you get the idea
of using coffee to paint? - And how long have you been doing this?
A.: I always have
painted in watercolor and have painted professionally for over 15
years. About 6 years ago I started experimenting with using
coffee in my paintings. Originally, I heard that in the old days
the Chinese used tea to help create a brown background in their
paintings. I then tried to use both tea and coffee in my
paintings. My main purpose was to create an old-look in the
paintings by using the brown color of tea and coffee. Later on, I
tried to paint the whole painting with tea, but did not get pictures
that I felt satisfied with. Tea can not be used to give you clear
lines or create the depth-of-field in the painting. I
experimented with coffee and, after many tries, could create paintings
that I felt satisfied with.
Q2: Have you tried to paint with any other
I tried Sodium Permanganate. Although this is not common in the
West, it is used all over Asia. Sodium Permanganate is the purple
liquid that is used to soak vegetables to destroy bacteria and
parasites in the tropics. When I first painted using a mix of
sodium permanganate and water, the color came out purple. It then
turned to different shades of brown. I was satisfied with the
brown colors it gave, but after completing the paintings for 2-3 months
I found out that the lines and brush stokes I made with Sodium
Permanganate disappeared from the paper! This was very
embarrassing as two customers returned paintings that had been very
attractive initially but almost completely disappeared three months
later. I was shocked at this and refunded them the money and
Q3: How hard is it to use coffee to paint
compared to normal watercolor paint?
A.: First of all, the
texture of the coffee is a challenge. It has more elastic
properties than normal paint. It is stickier when you apply it
with the brush. You have to use the right amount of water to
dilute the coffee right on the paper for the lighter brown or whiter
areas. It was also harder to control the lines, color tones and
the flow of liquid on the paper.
Further more, coffee also when it dried displayed glittering flakes in
itself and left unwanted traces of this in the paintings. I
had to use special techniques to control these flakes on the
paper. Another big problems was that after the coffee paintings
are completed the painting can mold easily. Furthermore, the
color on the paintings can peel off from the paper. Through years
of experimenting, I found ways to overcome these problems but it was
Q4: If coffee is so hard to paint with, why do
you continue to do so?
I kept on trying because it seemed like a great challenge for me.
Coffee gave a unique effect through the stain it left on the paper and
the unique flow of water mixed with coffee is unpredictable. All
of this is a challenge, which I had to strive to solve.
Q5: Do you always paint in coffee alone or
sometimes mix colors or other medium with it?
A.: I prefer to use
monotone coloration’s of brown in my paintings, but I also mix
watercolor with coffee in some paintings to create colors other than
brown. It is harder to paint in monotone and still make the
painting interesting and that challenge is what I like.
Q6: What themes are you using coffee to paint?
A.: Mostly old-time
scenes or history like themes. I also paint landscape like the
ocean, forest or building scenes.
Q7: What is the potential of this kind of
painting in the market? And what have been the public’s reactions to
this way of paintings?
A.: I had my first show
of coffee painting in 1998 at the Gaisorn Plaza in Bangkok,
Thailand. Over 600 guests attended the exhibition and most of the
paintings were sold. The people enjoyed the new idea in art and
the unique quality that it produced. I think the viewers found
that it was interesting to use something close to them that they see or
use daily, like coffee, to apply in the art form.
Q8: What is your future plan and what are your
A.: I plan to use
different themes to my coffee paintings, for example: pictures of the
old-time settings from the Oregon Trail in the Northwest of the
US. I feel that it will be very charming with the coffee
effects. My new challenge and hope is that one of the coffee
companies like Starbucks or others will sponsor me and let me try
different types of their coffee on my paintings. I’m always
amazed at how many types of coffee the companies offer and wonder
whether those various coffees would give different effects on my
Q9: How long does it take for you to complete
a medium size painting using coffee?
have a special ability to paint very quickly which I have had since I
was young. Usually for a 30x30-size painting using coffee takes
me only 15 minutes to paint. This has helped me when I do
demonstrations for guests of my exhibition as they could see the
results in a very short time.
Q10: Are you thinking about trying other new
mediums? And what are they?
have no plans now as I still enjoy painting with coffee. There is
at present still a market for these paintings and the public still has
a positive reaction toward this type of painting. I therefore
plan to continue to explore the medium as I feel I have not fully
charted all of the potential.
Thank you for
talking with us Professor Pornchai. We think your technique of
painting with coffee would be very intriguing to Americans and
Europeans and hope you have the chance to demonstrate to them your
unique artistic gifts.