FEATURE: Painter’s creations portray Lao lifestyle

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - He sits on a red stool with his right hand dexterously painting the figures of two women dressed in traditional costume.

Mr Santhana Sisomphone can complete four simple pieces like this every day but it will take him one or two weeks to finish a more difficult painting.

Painting is his livelihood and he sells his work at both retail and wholesale prices. He regularly sells paintings to vendors at the Talat Sao Mall in Vientiane and to handicraft shops along the Mekong River. He also provides paintings to merchants in Luang Prabang province.

Mr Santhana also produces custom-made paintings for clients, usually depicting typical Lao landscapes, cultural scenes, and historic places.

He says his regular customers are important as they inspire him to produce new types of artwork.

“I am especially pleased when old customers who have confidence in my work continue to buy paintings from me,” he adds.

The price of a painting depends on the complexity or simplicity of the work, and the size and detail of the picture.

Custom-made paintings are more expensive than those he turns out on a day-to-day basis. The time taken depends on the intricacy which also affects the price.

“I can produce new paintings all the time. If someone likes my work I will discuss and agree on a price with the customer,” he says. “This is an intellectual and creative job.” The price of his paintings is negotiable.

But Mr Santhana said that before his work became popular he found it hard to sell his paintings. This was in the 2000s when he first began painting to earn an income.

To begin with, he did not have many personal connections and had to look for shops in Vientiane where he could display his work. He also looked for handicraft shops that would sell his pictures.

Mr Santhana graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts in the academic year 2011-12. He then found work at a ministry, where he is still employed. He continued to paint and spend his spare time making paintings to sell.

 For Visit Laos Year 2018, he plans to paint pictures that depict aspects of Lao culture, in particular old architectural forms that are regarded as valuable heritage.

He also plans to paint well-known scenic places to encourage Lao people and foreign tourists to see as much of the country as possible.

He shares his skills with those who are interested through various media channels.

He explains that he mostly uses acrylic paint, pastels, watercolours and oil, and also draws in black and white. He uses mulberry paper and white cloth as the base.

It’s best to assemble everything you need before starting a painting, he advises. Then you need to outline the structure of the picture and slowly coat the main components with suitable colours.

He can sometimes be seen painting pictures to order at temples and restaurants.

“Most of my work relates to everyday life. If people want to see my work they can contact me at Facebook@Lao Art,” Mr Santhana says.