How many times in life where there is always someone doing so many things for you all the time…for years? Whether you realize that or not, they never stop contributing to people they love. And you, most of the times, take them for granted.
That’s my grandpa, who passed away in 2017. Not only he was the greatest guy I have ever known, but also he’s the coolest, kindest, most honest and most remarkable guy on earth, too. He provided so many things to our family and made sure that we have had decent lives. Let me take some time, in his honor, to give you a proper introduction about him.
My grandpa dedicated almost his whole life being an amazing engineer. Having a unique style designing houses and buildings, and being a great leader for many constructions, everyone involved with his projects love and respect him so much until now. In his sunset years after retirement, he devoted his time to pursue his dream of working in agriculture where he could take more time with his family.
Years after years, he was able to own a large area of land far away from the city in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand where is now my home. Not that he accumulated land for his pride, but he did that to turn the arid land into the beautiful fertile farmland. Majority of plants he grew were cashew nut trees which were outstanding enough to attract professors and experts from both Thailand and foreign countries to come and do research. It’s the one and only largest cashew nut farm that produces the best quality cashew nuts in the region.
In the heart of the farm located the home of ours, it’s the home that has given us peace and exclusive childhood, teenage and adulthood experience. To me, this place has the best environment on the planet. Importantly, it’s the perfect home to grow physically and emotionally. I can say that without my grandpa’s vision and mission of building a house in this wonderful land, I wouldn’t have come to where I am today.
September 23rd, 2018 was a big day for our family, we would hold a religious ceremony of placing his bones into his statue which located in our house area. During that time, I was on summer break between the second and the last quarter at a school in Seattle. What special for the ceremony was, all the family members would be there; My aunt’s family from Germany, another aunt, my cousin and myself from Seattle, my brother from Australia, including my cousins from other provinces. It’s the biggest family reunion ever. Before my trip to Thailand began, I decided to do one thing for my grandpa, one thing that I had never done when he was alive. I would coffee paint his picture for him.
The picture that I chose was the one taken with a film camera by my brother( Thanks bro! ). My grandpa was driving the very old tractor that had served him for years on the main way heading deeper into the farm. My brother, that time, I believe he was on the trailer, with a bunch of dogs running along. Not only us, but also other relatives, visitors, and his old folks got to ride on his trailer. During the ride, he usually told stories about whatever plants that came into his sight, sometimes, old jokes. It is always a warm, loving memory in our hearts.
I chose this picture because it’s the simplest picture to paint so far. By simplest, I mean, it has a few main elements for the composition, but it represents everything that I want to communicate to the audience. One more reason was, I love the details of film camera pictures.
I always adore the idea of coffee painting. But painting the full picture that is so fine and sentimental was somehow intimidating. Yet, I was determined and felt very excited. I started by printing out the picture in black and white which would help me work easier with the coffee painting that is a single color. Next, I drew grid lines both on the picture and the painting paper. I painted the background first, let it dry, then sprayed coffee on it with an old toothbrush to create leaves. Once it dried, I drew branches. Here was when real challenges began. The different distance of branches made it difficult to draw even for high definition pictures, let alone film camera pictures where you could only see vague details. I painted the branches with a discomfort feeling, making them look weird and unnatural. Next step was painting leaves and bushes. I tapped the tip of a brush all over the area, trying to blend big and small stains together. I was more careful when coffee paint because if you mess it up, it can’t be erased. The best you can do to fix it is painting on top of it.
I felt like I screwed up after painting the leaves because they didn’t look quite like leaves or have the dimension close to the real picture. Yeah, I get irritated when I lose control with details. Sometimes it annoys me, and most of the times I can’t help myself. What made me realize that drawing before painting, in this case, was now useless was, after I drew and painted the left wheel of the tractor. As the flow of coffee would ruin the draft anyway no matter how good I drafted, so I drafted the rest of the elements with thin, light coffee stains instead, and painted with darker ones on top.
The last step was completing all the details that I might miss and fixing some original stains. Besides, I repainted grandpa and the tractor, so that they turned darker than the background. This gave more dimensions to the painting. I looked at the painting over and over again, satisfied and relieved. It’s not the most beautiful artwork I ever created, but in the sense of creating something to represent a great person like my grandpa, it seems like the most beautiful painting to me.
The painting was a part of my grandpa’s bamboo board gallery which was set in front of the statue on the ceremony day. We were all too busy preparing for the ceremony and welcoming hundreds of guests, so I had no clue if anyone would notice or wonder about this one painting among the other colorful pictures or not. However, that was not the main point of my painting. I was already happy to take my time to paint him, to make an effort working around the hard parts of each process, and especially, to give my best at helping everything I could for the ceremony. Sometimes, that’s the best you can do for someone who’s not there anymore.
After all, we had awesome family time together before each of us traveled back to our own places to carry on our adventure…with more strength and warmth in hearts.