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This Filipina's Coffee Paintings Were Featured On Ripley's

Her coffee paintings were also featured on the Martha Stewart Show.
IMAGE Sunshine Plata Alimagno
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Sunshine Plata Alimagno was a college student at the University of Santo Tomas in 2000 when she discovered her passion for painting with coffee. Alimagno wanted to take up Fine Arts, but her path led her to the Sciences, and she ended up taking B.S. Psychology. But that didn’t stop her from pursuing her hobby.

“I quietly envied the students who'd sit anywhere around the campus sketching the antique architecture where I would pass by,” said Alimagno.

“Cafeteria Encantadia” (Enchanted Coffee Machine) 

Photo by Sunshine Plata Alimagno.
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As a student, Alimagno would buy art supplies from a nearby store within the university’s vicinity, but she realized how expensive these could get, and she could not afford to sustain her hobby with her allowance.

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One particular trip to the art store made a huge impact on Alimagno when she was rudely dismissed by a saleslady.

“I was looking around for paints and requested the attendant to open a locked glass shelf to have a better look at the oil paints. The saleslady looked at me adamantly and did not even bother to give me a chance to see them and retorted with ‘Those are too expensive!’”

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This particular incident made a huge impact on Alimagno that she resolved to find ways to fund her painting hobby. That was when she turned to coffee—it is cheap, fragrant, and has a unique palette.

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Every pattern and swirl in the coffee painting is a prayer.

Photo by Sunshine Plata Alimagno.

The simplicity of the coffee’s color palette, which is limited to the varying tones of brown, forced Alimagno to be creative with her artwork. She renders detailed patterns and swirls, which she describes as a form of prayer.

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“Every swirling brush stroke is a succession of a thousand whispered prayers of love, peace, forgiveness, acceptance, understanding, and bliss to each artworks' rightful owner.”

The patterns are not at all planned out, unlike the main subject. “They are spontaneously rendered as I go along my painting sessions and even I surprise myself with the outcome when I finish,” said Alimagno.

Alimagno’s coffee paintings were featured on Ripley’s and on the Martha Stewart Show

Photo by Ripley's Believe It Or Not.
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In 2008, after joining the exhibit LSD Trip by Caffeine where 24 of Alimagno’s 33 paintings were sold in just one night, she gained enough spunk to e-mail Ripley's Believe It Or Not. She narrated her story and her coffee painting journey, and showed them her unsold paintings.

Within 24 hours, Edward Meyer, who was vice president for archives and collections, replied by asking to purchase two artworks namely "Fairy of Sorrows" and "Reina dela Luna" and have them displayed at Ripley’s New York Museum in Times Square.

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A write up on her coffee art was published in one of Ripley's books and it released a Special Edition Ripley's Cartoon of Alimagno in the newspapers on March 30, 2008.

On April 1, 2008, Alimagno’s works were showcased at the Martha Stewart Show in their "Art That Fools the Eye" episode featuring Ripley's latest collection.

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Coffee painting is ‘caveman art.’

Alimagno did not attend formal art school and considers herself a caveman artist.

“I consider my art as caveman art in the sense that I did not go to art school for doing what I do. I was just exposed to a great number of illustrated books when I was growing up,” said Alimagno.

“Just like a caveman, I urged myself to discover my own staining substance in the form of coffee to express myself.”

Pag-asa

Photo by Sunshine Plata Alimagno.
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As she got better acquainted with her style, whose subjects and common themes are fairies, religious images, pregnant women, coffee farmers, children, and whimsical themes, Alimagno began incorporating dashes of watercolor to her coffee paintings on a limited scale so as not to outshine the natural beauty of coffee.

Alimagno’s coffee paintings are symbolic.

In the varying themes depicted by Alimagno in coffee, there are underlying meanings not only in each brushstroke, but also in each subject.

Reina de las Madres

Photo by Sunshine Plata Alimagno.
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“The pregnant women paintings are more of a statement that human life and the unique power of women to be nurturers and mothers can be something very precious that most people forget about or take for granted,” said Alimagno.

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“Coffee farmers themed artworks are an ode to the dedication and hard work of farmers and their families in patiently carrying out their duty to society—living a simple lifestyle in order to give continuously to humanity sometimes to the point of suffering injustice. They are beautiful people who are often neglected and overlooked.”

“Last but not least, paintings of children are reminders for us to be little again and to imagine the way these little people imagine things in a surreal manner that surpasses the narrowed down thinking of adults like most of us.”

Kapihan

Photo by Sunshine Plata Alimagno.
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Descanso Con Cafe Y Tabaco

Photo by Sunshine Plata Alimagno.

Nuestra Señora Delos Desamparados

Photo by Sunshine Plata Alimagno.
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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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