Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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Tea & Charcoal on the Paper Trail

white lotus watercolor

Sala @ White Lotus Press, May 2009

I painted the picture above with some brand new art materials .

Thai tea is traditionally flavored with tamarind, which gives it an orange color (cheaper versions use a lot of food coloring, but this tea is good quality). A German papermaker I met in Luang Prabang uses it in some of his paper designs, so I’m experimenting with it for my current illustrations. It gives a warm tinge to the image. The blackish ink comes from bamboo charcoal created for Dong Ho woodblock prints in Vietnam. I enhanced the sala’s white stucco with a handmade acrylic paste made with ground shellfish from Hai Phong, Vietnam (also used in Dong Ho prints). They give a lustrous iridescent finish.

I gave this image to the director of White Lotus as thanks for his hospitality – he hosted me in his library, office and garden-side dining room for the past week. From the writings of 15th century Chinese sailors to 21st century French ethnologists, I read of new perspectives and people. This has been an invaluable help to this paper-book project.

The next stage of this paper trail will be 11 days of seclusion on the off-season beaches of Ko Mak, eastern Thailand. There I plan to do two dozen illustrations for the book, and catch up on my notes from recent weeks.

For artists – and creatives – who could use a re-think of their relationship with money, check out Chris Guillebeau’s new Art & Money Guide. His co-writer, Zoe, lives in Chiang Mai and is doing some great literary work there, too. When I get back to the online world, I’ll join her team of Location Independent Creatives. We are just beginning to explore the possibilities and freedom offered by the internet. Through sites like Exile Lifestyle and Free Pursuits, people are becoming more aware that there’s more than one way to live a life and combine it with their career(s).

This awareness couldn’t come at a better time than now.

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