THOMASIAN artist Sunshine Plata, 29, loves coffee for entirely different reasons –she paints with it.

“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 in an interview with Reuters.

Her “brewed” images, which were designed to last longer than 75 years, were showcased in an exhibit titled “Manila Mirrors” at the Manila Art Gallery, Powerplant Mall last month. These sepia-toned paintings include “Guitar Man” that featured a man playing the guitar while rising out of the coffee vapor from a cup, and “Protectress of the Unborn,” a deity-like portrayal of a pregnant woman.

The psychology alumna’s odd paintings have caught not only the eye of art enthusiasts, but also those from the popular foreign show “Ripley’s Believe it or Not.” The show bought two of her paintings: “Reina de la Luna” and “Fairy of Sorrows.” They were later featured in “The Martha Stewarts Show.”

Obscured destiny

This “coffee painter’s” initial success can be attributed to serendipity, as the idea cam accidentally to her during college days.

Then a sophomore, Plata was taking a break from her homework and decided to paint instead, only to find out that she had run out of materials. She ransacked the kitchen cabinet and found an alternative medium that she once saw in Ripley’s: coffee.

From then on, she had been toying with the idea of painting using this delectable medium. But Plata struggled as an artist, mainly because of her other commitments.

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“It was my grandfather’s dying wish for me to become a doctor so I took a pre-med course that I knew I could handle and that was psychology,” she said.

At one point, she took the exams for shifting without much success.

She landed a job as a preschool teacher after graduation and later as a stage designer for school programs.

Plata continued experimenting with coffee, making a sepia-toned backdrop of kids playing around using a cornucopia of Nescafè packs during the recognition day of the school in 2007.

Eventually, her real calling was too loud to ignore; and so she embraced her long-time passion and quit her job to focus on her craft. She thought of ways to raise expenses for a solo exhibit until she bagged a sponsorship from coffee manufacturing giant Nescafè.

Plata did a painting of a farmer harvesting coffee for the company’s line of strong coffee, “First Pick.”

“They were happy with the outcome of my painting so Nescafè was the first who recognized me as a coffee painter,” she said.

The sponsorship also helped her stage her first exhibit wherein she showcased what she considered her first masterpiece, a coffee painting of the Main Building, a subject she had always been fond of.

“I’m very proud of the UST Main Building. The statues there are still beautiful even though they are centuries old,” Plata said.

Plata’s works have drawn the attention of personalities like Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Burger King president Butch Nazareno. Plata had received the “Dangal ng Marikina” Award in 2008. Her paintings have also reached London and Canada.

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While coffee art is relatively new, Plata continues to maximize the potential of her medium, changing how we see the beverage everyone loves through her coffee paintings. Ma. Karla Lenina Comanda and Tanya Justine R. Baldovino

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