Meet Koy Suntichotinun, a Carmel Valley resident whose videos have gone viral for documenting his sign-painting work.
Better known on social media as @koysun, the sign-painter first posted a TikTok of himself in May 2023, painting the sign of his parents’ local restaurant, Thai Test Kitchen in Sorrento Valley. The video quickly gained over 5 million views.
“The day after I posted the video, the restaurant was swarmed. My parents couldn’t keep up,” Suntichotinun said. The newfound attention resulted in his parents needing to expand the business and hire more cooks.
Suntichotinun’s parents immigrated from Thailand and turned to their son to paint their restaurant with his brother to save money, despite not having any painting experience. The experience sparked an interest in sign painting and Suntichotinun ran with it. Traditionally a digital artist, Suntichotinun realized that as more companies push for digital work, just as many are asking for hand-painted art as well.
Koy says that the hundreds of thousands of social media followers haven’t changed him as a person, but he now understands his influence and the responsibility that comes with it. He wants to continue fostering the sign-painting community he has helped grow.
“I’ve seen people come into restaurants just to see my work,” Suntichotinun said. “It’s one thing to post a video and get 2 or 3 millions of views, but it’s another to see the actual people come through.”
It’s this very community that helped Koy when the detailed mural he hand-painted for his parents’ restaurant was painted over by their landlord, citing city regulations. A follower of Koy who specializes in acrylic signs reached out and helped create a “landlord-approved” sign that retained Koy’s hand-painted artistry.
Suntichotinun embraces these obstacles.
“Doing something like sign-painting, I run into a lot of problems which is actually a good thing. It’s always new,” he said.
His parents’ restaurant isn’t the only small business Koy has transformed. Recently, he painted a 20-foot mural for the “White Rice Morena” restaurant in Linda Vista and crafted an ocean-themed painting for the Patagonia store in Encinitas, to name a few.
The online star plans to continue making story-telling videos and create fun ways to connect with his followers while creating art in other communities as well.
“For me, all I want to do is continue to push traditional handmade forms of art and use my new influence to provide scholarships and to teach others properly,” Koy said.