Enter a semi-surreal wonderland with Adobe Stock artist Biruoh
Image credit: Adobe Stock / Biruoh.
Hailing from the Isan region of Thailand and raised in rural Nakhon Rachasima (also known as Korat), Phatthranit Osman prefers to go professionally by the nickname Biruoh (the Japanese word for “beer”). The artist has parlayed her childhood love of drawing into a freelance career as an illustrator and UX/UI designer, currently based in Cork, Ireland.
“My mother and aunt are seamstresses, so growing up I would often see my mother and aunt drawing, and I used to ask them to draw a picture while I watched,” Biruoh says. “Back then, I couldn't draw on my own, so I felt like it was something so pleasant and interesting to watch.” As a teenager, Biruoh spent most of her time immersed in comics or in front of her computer. This period seeded an early interest in Adobe Photoshop, and graphic design.
“Drawing makes me feel like myself, and allows me to express my thoughts freely,” says Biruoh, who cites anime, games, and movies as major points of inspiration for her subject matter. But she also loves to travel with friends.
“I come home and look at the photos from my trip, and I often want to turn that picture into a fun story,” she says.
Her portfolio for Adobe Stock, featuring work from her Artist Development Fund commission in 2021, offers a kaleidoscopically colorful window into those travels and experiences, executed with her signature style: full of energy, movement, and color.
Travel has been a big part of Biruoh’s life since she left her native Thailand to move to Ireland, in order to be closer to her husband’s family. Though the culture shock has been an adjustment, she’s also had the opportunity to broaden her perspectives in many ways.
“I feel like I have learned so many new things, seen different people from different cultures — almost like I had a chance to get out of a small pond and get to see the wider world,” she says. “Which is useful, because when I was living in Thailand, I only had a handful of sources of inspiration, but now I get turn these experiences into creating new work.”
Naturally there were changes to be made — with food, with weather, with clothing.
“Here in the UK is rather cold, but luckily, I like the cold weather,” says Biruoh. “Even in Thailand I liked to wear a jacket, when it was too hot for one. Now that I’m living in a cold city, and I get to put on a jacket, it's even better.” Biruoh loves to explore her new city, keeping her eyes peeled for splashes of color on the houses, or best of all, on flowers.
“I have never seen some of these types of flowers before, and I take photos of them to keep,” she says. “I like to use them as a references for future drawings. I always feel excited every time I get to go out to a new place, whether it is in the city or in public parks, in nature, and many more — it is an eye-opening experience for me.”
Biruoh’s work explores diversity, gender, and authenticity, informed by her childhood in rural Thailand, but also colored by a visual kind of magical realism — a style she calls “semi-surreal wonderland.”
“It is like a reality and a dream combined to express my thoughts through drawing,” she says. Biruoh also likes to create monsters or creatures, with the aim of making her audience smile, or perceive the stories being told as unfolding adventures embroidered with imaginative flourishes, rather than just day-to-day trips or activities.
An array of techniques and tools
Though Biruoh does most of her work on digital platforms, she has long fostered an interest in handcraft techniques like oil painting, printmaking, and watercolor.
“I started to work as a UX/UI designer,” she said. “During my free time after work, I would come home and try different materials. I was trying to find out what I really liked and who I really am.” Trying to move to Ireland but stuck in Thailand due to the COVID-19 crisis, Biruoh took some time off work to explore her artistic voice.
“I used that opportunity to practice, train, develop and try new things because during that time I had the feeling that I wanted to find my own style, my own palette,” she says. “I tried using different colors and tried to draw in many different styles, all to find my own unique style.”
“100 percent of the work is done on my iPad, because when I go outside or commute from here to there, I can still work,” she says. “I like Fresco because it provides many tools. I like to take pictures and import them to take into sketches.”
Mostly, though, utilizing these tools are just a means to her end goal: to create a feeling.
“On one of those bad days, sometimes we come across something that makes our hearts blossom and refreshes our strength,” she says. “I like to be a part of giving pleasure and strength to other people.”
Live the life we want
Finally in Ireland, when the opportunity arose to apply for the Adobe Stock Artist Development Fund, Biruoh drew inspiration to tackle the project from her father’s work ethic.
“Since I was a little kid, I saw my dad working, doing his job from very early in the morning every day, never complaining,” she said. “He opened a garage in Korat, Pakchong district, and worked so hard. When it comes to work, he always said ‘whatever you do, if you truly want to do it, then continue to pursue it — doesn't matter if it is 10 times or 100 times until you accomplish it.”
But one day an electrical accident led to the loss of her father’s life.
“I looked back and thought we spend so much of our lives at work, so we should do work that offers opportunities to live the life we truly want,” says Biruoh.
With that in mind, Biruoh was able to overcome her reservations about applying for the Artist Development Fund and put together a commissioned portfolio for Adobe Stock.
“If I try, I might pass or fail,” she says, “but if I do not apply, I only have one answer, which is to fail.”
Another family member that is greatly influential to Biruoh’s message is her aunt, who has known herself to be queer since a young age, but needed to keep that part of her identity hidden for much of her life in rural Thailand.
“My aunt and I have been quite close to each other ever since I was a kid,” says Biruoh. “I never thought that my aunt being herself was wrong; we just accept, love and adore her as a part of the family. Finally, there came the time when she decided to be herself and stand up for her identity, which my grandfather could not accept.”
Biruoh cites her aunt as a major inspiration for her Adobe Stock portfolio, to serve as support for people to be seen and accepted, however they identify.
“Because being ourselves can make us feel unleashed,” she says. “To rise up as a unique self is not just a satisfying feeling on our own, but it makes people around you see the point and be brave, too.”