It sounds strange for someone who studied drawing and designing buildings to become a successful painter.
But this is exactly what happened to Teang Borin or better known as Din. While he graduated in architecture, the designing and drawing skills that he learned in university are not what earns him a living today.
Born in Kampot to a teacher father and homemaker mother, Din completed his high school in the province before moving to Phnom Penh to pursue his Bachelor’s degree in architecture at Norton University in 2001.
Graduating in 2005, he first gained experience in a number of firms before joining Yianko Associates as an architect. He remained there from 2008 to 2014.
Being an architect, he says, is rather challenging. As he works in a team, he needed to spend many hours on a single project which could take months or years to complete, no thanks to the many revisions and changes that take place as part of the process of designing a building.
However, being a painter is more recreational for him. He can enjoy his solitude as he works alone and at his own pace. There are no fickle minded clients to deal with, no deadlines to meet and best of all, he spends less time to complete a work of art.
“While most would think that painting is not as lucrative as being an architect, I wish to differ as I could always depend on it to earn a good living."
“I have been painting since my primary school days when my schoolmates approached me to paint something for them. I guess my interest in painting had been spurred since childhood as I always saw my father paint one thing or another as part of his job as a teacher,” Din says.
Since learning to paint in primary school, his interest was always drawn to traditional Apsara paintings. Nonetheless, he often painted more scenes of rural settings as this was what his clients demanded.
Having realised his painting talent and dream to become an artist since childhood, Din says he earns a better living today as a painter rather than an architect.
Eventually the 37-year old architect-turned- artist opened a painting shop, Din Art Gallery, three years ago. He now counts local and foreign art lovers among his many clients.
Apart from his formal education in architecture, the success of his art business makes Din a one of a kind individual who had managed to be successful in two careers.
“I knew I loved painting since I was five years old which is why I have continued to paint until today. After more than 30 years of painting, I just opened this shop three years ago.”
Having gained a reputation for his work in contemporary paintings, Din says his art shop keeps him busier compared to his career as an architect.
“Painting keeps me busy every day, so I always have new work displayed for sale. But for my work as an architect, the skills I gained are little practised."
“This is because I don’t accept much architecture work as I am passionate about my designs and often have differences of opinion with clients,” he says.
Currently, most of Din’s masterpieces are contemporary paintings which combine traditional and modern forms of art. He uses various techniques to paint Apsara, dancers, and scenery and these have become popular with art lovers around the world.
“My contemporary paintings are popular with foreigners. About 70 per cent of my clients are foreign, with the rest being Khmer,” he says.
The contemporary paintings by this architect also come at an affordable price tag. A contemporary painting, for instance, starts at $30 and could go up to $3,000 depending on size.
However, his masterpieces earn him a lot. One of his 60 x 120-cm painting can sell for $600. On an average month, he earns more $2,000.
Today, the outstanding quality of his artistic works have been recognised to the extent that the National Khmer Legacy Museum in St. Paul city, Minnesota, US, displayed his masterpiece at the 2018 Festival of Nations at the River Centre in St. Paul in May. Artists from some 200 countries took part in the display.
Din says traditional Khmer paintings have a high demand locally and abroad. Traditional style paintings require the most attention to detail as they exemplify the Khmer identity to the rest of the world.
Din says understanding Khmer culture will give more value to traditional paintings. “Giving value to traditional paintings is on the rise from our Khmer brethren and foreigners.
“I am really struggling to keep up with the large number of orders that I often fear I cannot finish a particular job on time for customers.”