Meet Chumpol. My friend first noticed his paintings when we were living out in Nong Khai and we were thrilled to have the chance to meet the man behind the work when we moved to Chiang Mai. Wandering into his studio on a whim I was instantly greeted with a warm pot of a tea and an invitation to sit down at a big wooden table tucked away in the back corner of the shop. Chumpol explained that he set up this spot because so many people seem to stumble in (like myself) ready to chat. Instantly I understood why; in his presence you feel calm, connected, and inexplicably safe, as if you are meeting someone that you have known longer than just a few minutes…
If you had the possibility to get a message across to a large groups of people, what would your message be?
Give as much as you are able to give. This is what I use my life for, because giving starts in the mind and then something concrete will follow. Giving helps you connect to things that are bigger than yourself. It is the truth that the world needs more selflessness right now, it may be a little idealistic, but globalization is changing the world and we are loosing the simple art of giving.
How has your life been different than you thought it would be?
My dream when I was young was to study art, but at first I was just making enough to survive. Now I have recognition in the world, more than I thought I would. People respect the way I live my life and they are inspired, they say I say your painting and it changed the way I live my life.They don’t know what to stand for in their life, in that moment they come to an intersection and they don’t know what to do. They see my work, they come to talk to me, and it gets them thinking.
Why is your life beautiful?
I had a lot of good parts in my life, but when I was young my family life was very hard. In grade 4 my Mom and Dad divorced. Before my Mom had been very successful, after the divorce she lost everything. She could no longer pay for my education, so in order to study art I had to work. I worked hard in a gallery in Bangkok, but I wanted to move to Chiang Mai. Then my Dad got fired, we were homeless, and my Grandmother had to enter the mental institution. My Dad had no support for his own troubles and started to buckle under the press, he locked himself in a house for 1/2 a year, then got evicted.
I started in Chiang Mai with no money. I had no house, lived with my girlfriend and then got kicked out, plus I was feeding my family. My grandmother died and we had no money to buy a coffin, a monk gave me one, but I still didn’t know how to support my Dad. I put him in a temple, there was free food there and space for him to clear his mind. Luckily my friend from Colorado moved here and she helped me, together we moved my Dad back. Some days I had only 7 baht to get by (30 cents), to survive I would cycle around selling my art work.
Then people started buying my work, and I was hired to teach an art therapy class, which allowed me to support my family in Bangkok. However, I was still mourning the loss of my sister who had been missing for 15 years, around this time the police found her and it was announced that she was dead.
Each step was better, but it was still very hard. My Dad passed away in my house, but I kept doing art, I never stopped. I reached many lows in my life, I went past zero. Thats why I think now that everything that happens I can accept. This is what is beautiful in my life.
If you could relive a day of your life again what would it be and why?
When I was in Junior high school my Mom had money and she wanted to send me to Australia, but I didn’t want to go. I often think what would have happened if I had gone.
I would also like to say goodbye to people in my family who left too soon, my Dad, my Sister, and my Brother who died on a motorbike accident during Songkran.
What inspires your work?
I am always looking at life. I think life is fun. Either you are happy or sad, but it’s never boring. I accept what comes my way, observe it, and that fuels my art.
What are you proudest of in your life?
I don’t know I am never proud….. Oh, maybe that I have enough patience. It is important for everything and especially for controlling your mind, that is a hard thing to do. I think if you can control your mind with patience better things will happen. I was a monk for 9 months and thats where I learned patience. Also, a lot of things/lessons have happened in my life that taught me to be patient.
What things do you make sure to do every day?
Paint. Even if it is small things or just thinking of new ideas and concepts. More and more now I can not write in a diary, my brain has forgotten the alphabet. I like to think something new all the time, be creative.
What one thing could you talk about for hours?
I could talk about life for hours. I don’t know why so many people, like my customers, think that I look like a counselor. They talk to me and they cry, people ask my advice. People always come to me, but I am happy to talk tot them. I give advice/ suggestions first, I try to help them and I think people appreciate that.
What is your one word of advice to other artists?
Have patience. Keep going, even if you have no money, you will have success one day. This will improve your work. Don’t stop what you are doing. Only 2% of people seem to persevere, most stop and then it is hard to come back again, they will be successful if they are brave. There are many eyes in the world, someday someone will notice you.
To check out Chumpol’s amazingly diverse collection of work visit his website. Or you can stop by his studio, Matoom Art Space- located on 136/4 Rachapakinai Road, if you happen to be in Chiang Mai!