This month, I would like to introduce a watercolor artist who was born in the south of Thailand. Before he became an independent artist, he
was an art teacher for two schools in his hometown, Trang Province. Currently he is living and working in Phuket Province as an independent watercolor artist. Throughout the
years, he has had several art exhibitions in Thailand and taught people the way of watercolor painting.
Here is the interview
JY: Have you ever submitted your painting to an art competition?
SS: Yes, I have. This happened before I enrolled in the Poh Chang Academy of Arts in Bangkok in 1972. When I was in the
third year of my diploma course, I submitted two watercolor paintings for two different art competitions. The first one was
the painting of a still model that I painted during my vacation and then submitted for the contest afterwards. I applied color
quite heavily with strong shading like a silhouette style. For the second painting, I painted a watercolor picture of a traditional
fishing boat in the south of Thailand. Both paintings won the second prize. My friend also brought that second painting to
show at an art exhibition at Sanamluang area in Bangkok. He said to me that Angkarn Kalayanapong (Thai national artist in
poetry in 1989), a famous poet and an artist, bought my painting. I was very delighted and full of moral support because at that
time he was not a national artist yet but he was interested in my work.
JY: Could you tell me about your student life at Poh Chang?
SS: When I was a student there, ten of my classmates and I formed a group and went to practice art outside the academy in
the evening. The usual places we went were Klong Lod canal and Wat Pho temple because we could easily go there by walking
since they were not too far. We all had quite similar ideas to share techniques and experiences as well as criticism in our
group so we could improve our knowledge and art skills. I remember well our upperclassman Chokchai Takpho who all of
us regarded as an idol. He gave us valuable advice about working on art. Another thing I would like to mention is that Saksiri
Meesomsuep, one of my best classmates at Poh Chang, received the title of Thai national artist in poetry in 2017.
As uniting as a group strengthened our bond, we then looked for outstanding artists outside the academy to be our art teachers.
The first person I cannot forget was Pratueng Emcharoen. At that time, he lived in the Bangkhae District and his home had a
garden. We brought our drawings and paintings to him for invaluable suggestions and criticism. For me, he gave me some
advice that my works were not quite good enough so I had to practice more than ever and he guided me how to do it. Listening
to his advice, I found that his criticism helped me a lot with my drawing and was not discouragement at all.
Another individual was Tang Chang, a well-known poet and an artist. One early morning we went to his house but he scolded us
for an entire day. In the evening, he finally accepted us as students. This kind of mental test is like in Chinese martial arts
movies. We were his students for a year and each of us received individual sets of instructions and comments to improve our art.
His teaching method was profound: that we should draw naturally with our own nature. He neither forced us to draw in a
certain style nor suggested how to draw with any particular method. One thing he taught us was the concept of Eastern
culture in our work. He guided us in the way of thinking and how to create better drawing. For the first time, I saw art differently
from the general perspective that art is just learning and practicing the skills. At last, I realized that there are so many
processes of thinking and creating art. All these things were not in the lectures of my educational institute and they became my initial step for in-depth study of drawing.
Abstract drawing was one of my favorite kinds of art and I could not describe how beautiful it is. Nevertheless, Abstract drawings
of Tang Chang were lifelike and formless such as black color on white paper or white color on black paper. Tang Chang drew all
the time. He taught all of us to be proud of Eastern culture. To make the painting more lifelike and not boring to look at, he
used the principles of Buddhism that the painting should contain four elements: earth, water, wind and fire. For me, this
was a very delicate concept which gave me inspiration to work continually and I finally understood how to paint a good picture.
From my own experiences, hardship teaches me to work harder. During the period of my study, my mother sent me monthly 300
Baht for transportation/food/drawing equipment. This was definitely insufficient if you asked me. I used a lot of paper in an
effort to practice sketching in the study period with Tang Chang. Sketching is the core standard of drawing. The personality of
Tang Chang—he was a good man, sharp-tongued yet he had high kindness and integrity. In his first Thai book “Tao Te Ching”, he
translated the work of a Chinese philosopher from Chinese to Thai. This book is very good. I recommend you read it.
JY: What job did you take after your graduation?
SS: When I finished my art education at Poh Chang Academy of Arts in 1977, I became an art teacher in my hometown in Trang
Province in the South of Thailand. To be honest, during my study at Po Chang, I could not see myself as an art teacher at all
because I wanted to be an independent artist after graduation. At that time, I needed to have a main job so I sat for the
teacher’s examination and then I was recruited as an art teacher. The first school I went to teach drawing and painting was a
district school called Huay Yod School which was located at Huay Yod District in Trang Province.
In the beginning of my teaching life, I intended to teach my students to have good artistic knowledge and skills. It is
essential for any art teacher to understand principles of art and always practice drawing. As the school was in a different district
that was far from the main city, the art equipment was quite limited. The stores only sold regular watercolor paper and good
quality watercolors were scarce. Subjects I taught were drawing and shading, image composition and color theory. One of the
convenient and easy techniques I used was watercolor painting because it was convenient, quick to apply on paper and can be
adapted to many styles. Back then my knowledge of watercolor painting was still lacking and I was not too serious with it yet but
I found that watercolor painting was appropriate to teach my students. During 2001 – 2012, I moved to teach at the second
and last school Chulaporn Ratchawittayalai in Trang Province. After my early retirement, I moved to live and work in Phuket
Province till the present. There I teach watercolor art to people and create more watercolor paintings.
JY: Could you tell me about your past exhibitions?
SS: Initially, I participated in a watercolor art exhibition with the Andaman group in 1999. The exhibition was held in Phuket
Province. After that, I joined the group art exhibitions constantly. The first solo exhibition, “2 Decades: Sukit Sukrakan”, was a
collection of works before and after I was an art teacher over the timespan of 20 years. In 2002, I had a solo oil color art
exhibition “Impression from the Heart” in Phuket. Before I had early retirement, I was a member of the National Visual Arts
Association of Thailand and had art exhibitions every year. In 2010, I planned to retire from my work to be a full-time artist. I
used watercolor for practice by painting five to ten pictures every day until 2012 which was my retirement year. I collected my
watercolor paintings that I used for practice and had an art exhibition under the name “Suk Kab Sinam (Happiness with
Watercolor)”. This is my personal brand I used whenever I have solo art exhibition every year till now.
JY: What is your impression of Phuket Province?
SS: When I was young I used to visit Phuket with my family. I saw and was really fascinated by the old buildings in Chino
-Portuguese architecture. Back then I wanted to have a house there because Phuket was very peaceful. This was one of the
reasons I like to draw old buildings in Phuket. Moreover, beautiful natural resources around the island were plentiful. I
also liked to draw Thai fishing boats because of their colors and shapes. In my view, sometimes preference doesn’t need a reason
but it is a never-boring inspiration. It is always good for me to draw pictures of boats under strong sunlight and I am so happy
to use my painting brush to record my impression quickly. I find that watercolor can respond to my emotion very well.
JY: Do you have any suggestions for beginners who want to learn painting with watercolor?
SS: In the beginning, watercolor is very challenging to paint because we cannot control all the outcomes, as if we want to
reach the destination of our journey. The road of watercolor may not be smooth all the time as sometimes we find the obstacles
and pits along the way. What we can do is to learn its pattern and overcome it with practice for control. It is advisable to
practice painting with watercolor every day. If you stop practicing for too long, it is likely that you have to start all over
again. Watercolor may be easy to learn but harder to master because everything about it is important. We have to learn how
to select suitable kinds of painting paper and different techniques for various conditions in the story you wish to convey in the painting.
What is the charm of watercolor that can captivate me? My answer is to find the best way to use color effectively and control
the use color. Many people may be discouraged after practice. I could tell you that there is no shortcut since you have to practice
and solve problems every time when the outcome is undesirable or the color is not as we hoped. Only practice can tell you
whether your work is good or not and how you can improve it. I also look at and inspect my own progress. My personal thought
is that happiness and success can happen if we have discipline in ourselves. Laziness is not the reason to give up doing something.
Truthfully, moods and inspiration are necessary. You can start by looking at something you like or are impressed with, and then
transfer it to painting paper. Most importantly, you should be happy to paint something as happiness bring moods and
inspiration to you. I want to tell people who love watercolor and wish to learn it that discipline is one of the most important
aspects and it always comes first. This can be followed by learning essential theories along with diligent practice.