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Meet The Malaysian Girl Who Paints The World - With Coffee!

A stroke of caffeine.

Meet The Malaysian Girl Who Paints The World - With Coffee!
Image: Vivian Lee
Imagine waking up on a rainy working day feeling drowsy, unenergetic and grumpy. As you start getting dressed, you begin to wonder if you really need this job. 

On the way to work, you decide that you want to kill every new person that you meet along the way and mentally swing a sledgehammer to destroy every single car on the road.

You walk in to work, barely acknowledging your colleagues who greet you cheerfully. You chuck your things on your workstation and you walk straight to the coffee machine.

You eye the cup of coffee that is being made greedily and dive in to inhale the steaming aroma. The steam seem to fill your soul instantly and you proceed to take the first sip. And just like that, you are a ball of energy, bouncing here and there completing task after task, well on your way to becoming employee of the year.

Sounds a lot like you? Well, you're not alone.

Us every morning.
Data provided by research site Euro Monitor in 2013 revealed that Malaysia was listed in the top 50 coffee consuming nations around the world, which just means that almost everyone else feels the same way in the morning until coffee hits their systems.

But wait; if you think that the popular beverage is only known for its ‘wake up’ effect, think again! There is more to your cup of java than just being an ordinary beverage.

Sip and splat.
Did you know that you can actually paint a picture - literally! - with coffee? Malaysian artist Vivian Lee proves that we can do just that.

She discovered that coffee is so versatile that one can paint with it, and experiments after experiments later, she is earning a living with her coffee arts.

Rojak Daily recently caught up with her amidst her busy schedule to get a glimpse into her coffee-painting world.

Experimenting with coffee

Vivian, a self-proclaimed coffee addict, could never really live without coffee.

She stumbled upon the discovery that coffee can also be magical on canvas when she challenged herself to create something unique and special for the 2014 Coffee Art Fringe Festival Asia, in which she badly wanted to participate in.

A cuppa a day.
“It started out as an experiment. During that time, I wanted to join the art festival so badly and wanted to come up with something exceptional for coffee lovers. I wanted it to be something permanent, something meaningful and something that they can keep forever.

“That was when the idea of doing coffee caricature was born. To me, a caricature brings joy and love into our lives. They put a big smile across our faces and we relive forgotten moments and recall fond memories for years to come.

“So, I combined coffee and caricature and made it my signature product,” she explained.

Bringing joy to the world.
For the 26-year-old, who has been creating coffee art for the past three years, painting is second nature.

“I love to draw as a kid and I joined a lot of colouring and drawing competition almost every weekend. I also took up Multimedia Design and Illustration in college. This all led me to become a full time artist now,” she said.

For the love of coffee

For Vivian, coffee is more than just a beverage.

“Coffee is a trend. It is a lifestyle. Coffee has a very distinct  colour that is able to create vintage and old school feel on canvas. The shades of coffee have a sentimental quality that makes the artwork more pleasing to the eye.
“Coffee also has a glossy surface, so even when it dries, the texture stays on paper. So I use coffee as a medium to express and explore my creative works,” she said.

More than just a beverage.
Vivian’s choice of coffee to paint is nothing fancy.
“I use regular black coffee. I just ensure that it 100 per cent black coffee, Basically, it is kopi O without sugar. You don’t want sugar in your painting as you don’t want to attact ants,” she said.
Vivian explain that as coffee is a single sepia tone which is similar with Chinese ink painting, the shades have to be adjested to get the correct value and tone.

 Wake up and smell the painting.
“From light to dark, layers by layers, it takes a lot of time and practice to achieve the desired effect, tone and texture for the drawing.
“Sometimes I also apply Gesso, a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum or pigment, on the surface of canvas for a 3D effect,” she said.
Vivian’s favourite things to paint include nature elements such as animals, pets, butterflies, insects, humans as well as buildings.
“Master Peter So, a feng shui master from Hong Kong, is the most popular celebrity I did a portrait of to date,” she shared.

The coffee effect

Get the show on the road.Making coffee painting as her full time job has been the best thing that Vivian has done for herself because her career has skyrocketed ever since.
One of her proudest achievement was to host her first solo art exhibition this year.

Her own creative space.“The exhibition which lasted for a month, was sponsored by EcoWorld. They provided me with a bungalow show unit to be used as my art gallery.

"The bungalow had five rooms which I filled with my coffee paintings. Each room had a different theme including secret garden, coffee fashion illustration, landmarks of Malaysia and my journey,” she said.

Beaming with pride. 
Vivian has also gained international recognition for her work when she won ‘The Best Of You Award 2015’ and came out as one of the top three winners in the International Society of Caricature Artist (ISCA) event in Singapore.
Vivian’s generous side shines bright when she also decided to embark on a journey to teach people how to do coffee painting themselves.

Sharing is caring, says Vivian.“Sharing is caring. I have started teaching this art to people who want to learn. I conduct coffee painting workshops for beginners once in a month in different locations. It has been an enriching experience,” she said.

Vivian has been unstoppable since she introduced coffee to canvas, and she plans to introduce the art to the world.

Bringing joy to the world.
“I love travelling. Last year, I drew on a Star cruise. The trip was from China to Japan and it was eye opening. My coffee painting have followed different owners to different homes around the world. That makes me feel like I am travelling with my arts too.

“I wish I could bring more joy and happiness to people by touring the world with my art,” she said.

If you like her work, you can follow Vivian’s art journey through her Facebook page or on Instagram.