Creativity knows no bound. An artist may find muse amidst the most mundane stuff; it can even be a teaspoon of instant coffee powder. And with some enthusiasm and sincerity, one can make an occupation out of it.
Gurgaon-based Amita Dutta, who is hearing impaired by birth, is one such artist, for she never let her impairment break her journey towards her dreams. The 45-year-old’s innovative coffee paintings have found homes in the hearts and living rooms of many; her monochromatic pictures have got her accolades, a stable career, and the best entrepreneur award from the President in the category of hearing-impaired persons in 2012.
She communicates using her fingers and her mother-in-law, Deep Dutta, modulates the message. She feels painting with coffee is almost like painting with water colours, and basics remain the same.
“Water is added to coffee powder in varying proportions to get hues of different intensity. Coffee is sticky and follows its own way. Also, one has to wait at every step for drying, otherwise the picture will crumble, crack or develop fungus,” says Deep, interpreting Amita’s message.
A painter working with coffee has to be very patient. It is literally back-breaking because the artist has to stand or stoop while painting. “Probably these are the reasons why painting with coffee has not picked up so enthusiastically by art lovers,” she says.
Amita, who chose painting as a medium of expression in 2008, got the reward for her hard work in the form of admiration. “From writers to painters, corporates to homemakers, students to celebrities, government officials, chief ministers and governors, everyone praised her. Even if people don’t buy the paintings, they admire her work,” says Deep, who has remained her guiding angel since the day Amita entered her house as a bride 25 years ago.
Amita learned painting and arts from Savitri Polytechnic in Gurgaon, in 2008, and came across the painting technique using coffee in one of its weekly workshops. The uniqueness of style and ingredient caught her fancy, and innovation met coffee painting in Amita’s hands. She experimented with various techniques and media and crafted a new art form for herself.
“I am proud that she has given a new shape to the basic techniques learnt in the workshop. It has evolved in an imaginative and beautiful way in her work. She has surpassed her alma mater,” says Deep.
Amita also uses glass colour, home-made dough, and ceramic powders for outlining the patterns, and then fills them with colours and coffee.
Amita’s story of success is also the story of her mother-in-law’s conviction. Her experiences with her hearing-impaired son helped her understand Amita’s predicament.
She was aghast to find that her parents had given up on her. “Even the principal had expelled her from school, when she was in Class IX, with the excuse that she would bring disrepute to the school if she failed in board exams,” Deep says.
She taught American sign language to Amita to help her communicate. She made her study and take board exams through the National Institute of Open Schooling, and also encouraged her to complete a three-year course in interior designing so that she could lend a hand in the family-owned interior decoration and furniture business.
Amita now holds exhibitions, and also works for corporate organisations on commission. “Being creative and unique was the mantra,” says Deep.
They unanimously agree that thinking out of the box, keeping it unusual, and catering to people’s choices have helped Amita create her identity despite all her challenges.
Deep is happy today as Amita has turned out to be an independent and confident woman taking decisions for her art, family, and business. “She is a good manager and exceptional in crisis management. I may be her strength backstage, but ultimately she is the doer,” Deep says.
Giving a message to all going through a low phase in life, Amita says: “You need to be who you are. Nature has so much to offer. You just need a little imagination, creativity, and willingness to push your boundaries, and not feel defeated.”