Haute RE Magazine

Spilled coffee paintings blend Lingnan with modern inspiration


pilled coffee was a ‘happy accident’ for Asian-American artist Anita Yan Wong, inspiring her collection of captivating portraits depicting elegant, alluring women.

Wong is a 4th-generation Lingnan painter, a traditional Chinese painting style that originated in southern China in the late
19th-century. Lingnan is known for its fusion of Chinese, Japanese and Western approaches. 

Wong worked as an Art Professor for over 15 years at MICA, SVA, and Temple University before returning to focus on her art in 2015. Her finely honed craft has gained international recognition and led to collaborations with institutions such as The Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere, Stanford University, intending to preserve China’s Lingnan Guo Hua wisdom. 

To create her Coffee Portraits collection, Wong used just three materials: coffee, ink, and a calligraphy brush. Simple, decisive strokes combine with delicate touches to create shadows and depth in the portraits. As with traditional Lingnan-style paintings, Wong pays attention to the use of white space in her paintings. Here, the white space defines the strong features of the women’s faces.

With just a few simple tools and a minimal colour palette, Wong brings the canvas to life, illustrating intriguing facial expressions that make you wonder what the story is behind each woman portrayed in the portraits.

Remember Wong’s coffee portraits the next time you spill your coffee. Unintended mistakes may lead to positive results and inspiration down the road.

Bright colours are a defining characteristic of Lingnan paintings

Spilled coffee may be a good thing.


Photo Credit: Anita Yan Wong