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Tip for toilers: Take it easier

Mar 22. 2013
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By The Nation
E-mail: ntsoopsit@

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House renovations kept artist Sakwut Wisesmanee away from his canvases for five months (no jokes about him repainting his house, please), so getting back to the oil and turpentine felt like being "reborn", he says.

When L’Officiel Thailand magazine commissioned a self-portrait for its first-anniversary issue, Sakwut hesitated at first. “All my focus was on the house, but then I saw the magazine and I decided to do it.”

First he needed to know what he looked like, so he had a photographer he trusts, Chamni Thipmanee, take his picture. The resulting self-portrait in charcoal (not house paint) graces the magazine’s cover.

Readers discover more of his recent work inside, along with shots of his home studio, but it’s that cover drawing that’s most significant, and a new milestone for the artist – the end of perfectionism.

Not that the portrait isn’t a knockout, but Sakwut – one of the few Thai artists who actually manage to make a living from art – has suffered for his perfectionism.

He once ruined a perfectly saleable painting just because he wasn’t satisfied with it. “My client was almost handing me the paycheque, but I told them I wanted to go back and work on it some more. And then I ended up spoiling the whole thing!”

It’s upsetting seeing paycheques fly out the window, so Sakwut went through a tense period that he can only now look back on and appreciate. He eventually felt grateful that the aggravation pushed him onto a new path.

“I went through some of my unfinished pieces and found beauty in them, whereas some of the ones where I was seeking perfection look stiff. So I’ve decided to relax and make peace with my work.”

And the self-portrait for L’Officiel Thailand is the first “experiment” in his new approach to life and labour. It looks great to us, evidently to the magazine staff too, and Sakwut sounds pleased. “I’ll continue on this path, creating artwork at ease, until I no longer know what to draw.”


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