Philippines artist perks up paintings with coffee

MANILA Tue Aug 26, 2008 6:33am EDT

Filipino artist Sunshine Plata paints using coffee as paint during an art session in a kindergarten in Pasig city, suburban Manila August 21, 2008. PREUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Filipino artist Sunshine Plata paints using coffee as paint during an art session in a kindergarten in Pasig city, suburban Manila August 21, 2008. P

Credit: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

MANILA (Reuters Life!) - There's something brewing in Sunshine Plata's paintings. The Filipino artist uses instant coffee to paint whimsical scenes and rural landscapes on canvases that also give off the bean's earthy aroma.

Plata maximizes the monochrome medium by mixing different quantities of coffee powder with water to create contrasting shades of brown. She then uses a fixing material to ensure the paint lasts.

Initially working with oil as a medium, she switched to powdered coffee after seeing a painting with a signature signed in coffee.

"I started painting with coffee because I wanted a cheaper medium that was accessible to me," Plata told Reuters.

A tube of oil paint costs at least 500 pesos ($11), while a jar of instant coffee is only around 150 pesos ($3).

Plata was a preschool teacher with a psychology degree before she dabbled in painting almost eight years ago. She likes to draw fairies, butterflies and fish, images she says are inspired by her dreams.

And although she specializes in using coffee as paint, Plata admits she's not a java fan.

"I'm a tea addict, as a matter of fact. I don't drink coffee, because I love to sleep. If I ever drank coffee, I wouldn't be able to sleep, and it's through my sleep wherein I get my ideas and my dreams and my paintings from," she said.

Plata's paintings sell for at least $400 U.S. dollars, and the pieces are expected to have a lifetime of 75 to 100 years.

She also conducts coffee painting workshops for school children and aspiring artists. She says her work is proof that anyone, regardless of age or background, can paint with anything.

Plata's coffee paintings have been featured on U.S. television shows and were also exhibited in New York.

While the lack of color variation might put off some art connoisseurs, Plata's paintings are popular with several Filipinos.

"Even though it lacks color, it's still beautiful in its monochromatic sense," said Richelle Ramirez, a coffee-loving university student who visited a recent exhibit.

(Writing by Michaela Cabrera, editing by Miral Fahmy)