Close Up with Chiang Mai Water Colour Artist Wuth Srakaeo

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I am from a small town  near Surin in Eastern Thailand. At the age of 13 I became a Buddhist novice at the local temple and ordained as a monk when I was 20. At that point I had moved to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand and my main Wat was Wat Kat karem – it is usual for a monk to move around to different temples. After 6 years I disrobed and moved to work in Bangkok so that I could help my family (I am the oldest child).

In between working in the capital I was also a singer/dancer in a touring Thai country band (see ). The name does not really describe it properly as there is no equivalent entertainment in the West – I suppose the closest would be a very large cabaret act with a full band and upwards of 80 backing dancers! Back in the capital I was given the chance to take up painting with a local tutor and took it, initially as a hobby, but soon I realised how much I enjoyed it – I  captured again that wonderful feeling of freely sketching and painting that I had before I became an adult. I found myself looking forward to getting home after work about midnight (I was still working in a restaurant) and painting until 3am!
Forest Monks
The biggest change in my outlook, and the motivation for my decision to try to make a living from my art, came upon returning to Chiang Mai in 2010 and beginning my study under Ajarn Thanakorn Chijinda (Ajarn is a Thai honorific meaning  teacher / master). Since then I have started teaching and exhibiting my watercolours of South East Asian landscapes and urban scenes.

Who (or what) inspires you to do what you love in your own creative business?

That would have to be my Ajarn, Thanakorn Chaijinda.

Where do you get your inspiration from when you paint?

That is not so difficult here in Chiang Mai as we’re surrounded by wonderful temples and natural beauty. My initial inspiration often came from my favourite artists Robert Wade, John Singer Sargant and John Pike. Not that I paint like them!

What are the five words that people who know you would use to describe you?

Jai dee literally good heart  in Thai, fun, karaoke-addict!

Tell us about your very first job and what path have you taken since then?

It began with a commission for two large watercolours from an acquaintance who had seen some of my earlier sketches. I must admit to have been a little anxious when I handed them over but he was very happy with them and they now hang on his wall in Oslo. Since then it has been a mixture of commissions, painting for myself or for exhibitions, and teaching. Word of mouth has been the main source of my work.

Teaching Studio

Describe a typical day in your studio space?

Studio space… well my real studio space could be sitting on the floor of the main room in our small wooden bungalow or at the current exhibition, or sketching outside, or with other artists at a gathering with Ajarn Thanakorn. An artist friend, Chris Chun, kindly shares his studio space with me but I’m not often there. I think it must have been all those late nights painting on my own whilst sitting on the floor that makes me a bit of a solitary artist!

As a Solo Artist, what is your biggest frustration?

I do love being solo artist so my biggest frustration is not related to that it is of a more practical nature – getting a reliable source of good quality painting supplies!

Since you are working from home, can you please tell us about how do you connect with other artists, and your customers (i.e. how do you network)? 

I belong to a group of watercolour artists who all met under the tutelage of Ajarn Thanakorn here in Chiang Mai. We frequently get together at Ajarn’s house for sketching, teaching, food and gossip. Other connections arise from local galleries and via friends here and abroad. At the moment most of my customers are friends of friends who come to our exhibitions or commission a painting. I’m hoping to expand that by better targeting the exhibitions.

What advice can you offer other creative people who are just starting out and following their passions?

It can take time and there will be setbacks but the payoff when it comes is unlike anything else you will experience.

What dreams do you still want to achieve or fulfil in your life?

It is not a very Thai thing to talk openly of one’s dreams! But if I had to say, it would be the thought of finding a way to travel to paint; here in SE Asia or Australia. I think the best way would be by arranging an artist residency so I am starting to look for some for next year.

What is your proudest moment so far?

A small thing which strangely follows on from the last question. A few days ago, at our group exhibition, I got into a conversation with an Italian artist who is over here for a short holiday and was very happy to receive an offer of the use of his studio space in his and his wife’s villa in Italy!

Who do you most want to meet and why?

Robert Wade – outside my teacher, he was my first inspiration for painting.
What book are you reading right now, and do you have a book you would like to recommend?
“John Pike paints Watercolours”. I really only read books on watercolour painting.
Where do we find you and your artworks? (list stores & links, websites )
Current group exhibition is at Suriwong Book Center, Chiang Mai, until the end of July

Wuth sketching with Children in Burma
Vinh Van Lam
the authorVinh Van Lam
Vinh Van Lam, co-founder of ArtSHINE, is a visionary art coach and entrepreneur with a passion for fostering creativity. With a diverse background in art and business, he brings a unique perspective to empower emerging artists, enabling them to thrive in the dynamic art industry through the innovative platform of ArtSHINE.

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