Clarisse Pastor-Medina uses coffee as medium to express her Filipino identity

Here's to a cup of art courtesy of the Batangas-born painter

Here’s to a cup of art courtesy of the Batangas-born painter

‘Balikbayan Box’

‘Balikbayan Box’

By Cristina DC Pastor

Where some of us see nasty ring stains, she sees a sustainable art medium.

For seven years now, Batangas-born Clarisse Pastor-Medina (no relation to this writer) has been painting with coffee and staging solo exhibits with nothing more than her large canvases and presumably her Batangas ‘barako.’

“I like the medium,” said Clarisse when interviewed by The FilAm via email. “It is practical, non-toxic and natural. It also gives a painting an overall sepia effect which is the color of nostalgia.”

But wait. Not ‘barako’?

“It’s been just regular instant for now because brewed coffee comes out better on watercolor paper but not on the canvas,” she explained. “I really wish!”

Brewed or boiled, coffee presented endless possibilities to Clarisse one day when she was having a cup at work and saw ring stains on white paper. She saw a myriad of images. She may have glimpsed the Olympic logo, a pair of matrimonial rings, hoops for circus tigers or disco earrings. Soon she was in a “mad phase of experimenting” with red wine, soy sauce, beer and other natural stains only to come back to where it all began.

Clarisse was born and raised in Batangas City and went to college in Manila at De La Salle University, where she earned a B.S. degree in Commerce majoring in Marketing Management. After college, she moved to San Francisco. She works for a nutraceutical research company…and paints. She has a solo show on February 18 entitled “Artwellings” to be held at RAW: San Francisco at 420 Mason Street. She is one of the gallery’s resident artists.

“Even though I was never art-schooled, art had always been an inclination and a part of my life since I was a child,” she said.

It must be in her genes too. Her father, who is a banker, continues to paint well into his retirement. An uncle, who is a surgeon, paints in between medical procedures. Art may be a continuation of that legacy, or it could be a matter of just “scratching a natural itch or following my heart.”

Clarisse was drawn to coffee, initially because it is easily accessible, and aesthetically because it mutates into various shades of brown, the color of Filipinos. She is currently completing her collection for a forthcoming exhibit called “BIAK: Explorations of Filipino Heritage, Identity, Immigration and Assimilation.” Here, coffee is used for the first time as a medium to express and explore Filipino identity.

“A finished coffee painting on paper is very much like watercolor work and a coffee painting on canvas has a finish like that of acrylic inks’ although unlike paint, coffee is not permanent and easily lifts with any liquid,” she said. “I don’t mix or blend it with any other medium, just coffee and varying amounts of water to achieve different shades. I do seal my fully dried and finished work with clear acrylic fixative.”

Coffee has its challenges, foremost its unpredictability on certain types of surfaces. But it’s the type of “unpredictability” she equates with life itself.

“I particularly enjoy the challenging and stubborn unpredictability of this medium much like the randomness of life. It requires and hones proper timing, intuition, patience, letting go, coping and sometimes even forgiveness and undoing,” she said, seeming to wax poetic.

Realistically though, archival quality is a “real concern.”

Clarisse’s coffee paintings have braved the elements in parks and outdoor shows and long car trips — and survived.

“They haven’t gotten damaged, faded nor lost their values.” She would love to see how they hold up in a long plane ride under varying temperatures.

Discovering the medium in a brilliant moment of spontaneity was a wonderful feeling, although she said there are other artists who may be using it longer than she has.

She said: “Some have been truly helpful to me in solidifying my love and faith in the medium.”

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‘Mandirigma in Stilettos’

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‘Tumbang Preso’

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