Becoming A Coffee Painter
Jan 28, 2019
Good morning, dear friends.
I figure there’s no better time than a Monday morning to bring it up again – yeah… coffee. Coffee art. Not the latte kind (though I wish someone would embellish me an espresso right now!) but oh, a very satisfying blending of two of my favorite things. I never realized how much I love watercolour art, it’s a medium I rarely experimented with since acrylics held the spotlight for a long time. I think we should have the term ‘coffeecolour’ coined, but we’ll see if it sticks!
But why coffee? The truth is that it just had to happen, because I just HAD to paint. To cut down a long story, my artistic tools have taken directive from what’s readily available to me - in a crazy-busy time of life. I’ve heard it said that art stagnates, if you don’t live your life and have new ideas and influences. It was years ago now, but I remember the first time I saw a coffee painting (while mindlessly scrolling pinterest - guilty!!) and my heart stopped for a second.
I thought it was GENIUS. The rich tones, uniqueness of the stain… the instant-vintage, classic, moody-monochromatic, just ahhhhhh. I never forgot about that little pin.
Fast-forward a few years – to the me who was diving back into fine art, but feeling the frustrations of never having the time to mix paint, or the resources to keep little hands out of it (did I mention I have four kids?)... it seemed like I couldn't really get my hands dirty and actually complete a piece. I happened to have a small jar of instant Nescafe up in the cupboard, the baby was having a nap and with my pent-up creative energy I remembered the coffee artist - and sat down with a watercolour paper. I fell in love, and as they say ‘the rest is history’.
If you’ve been following me over the last couple of years you know that I began as a graphic artist, which led me to digital painting (which I still LOVE, see attachment) and the coffee medium has wonderfully satisfied my craving to be more textile with my work (for now, right??). I’ve been slowly coming into the artist that I believe I’m meant to be – though I’ve figured out that I’ll never ‘arrive’… you just go with it and keep discovering.
So let’s talk shop. On the easel right now are canvases I’m prepping for watercolor (COFFEECOLOR) with a special primer – Golden Absorbent Ground – an opaque acrylic primer for water media. Does it make me a nerd to be excited that it’s actually named GROUND? I mean, come on. I’m having trouble deciding between canvas and Bristol paper – I really like the crisp, clean white of the paper and Strathmore has some decent heavier-weight options.
I’ve also been studying a bit on how to preserve the work. Being that coffee is technically a ‘stain’ (much like an ink) the light-fastness is notoriously low. To battle that I’ve been sealing my paintings with a non-yellowing acrylic sealer, and then top-coating that with a UV-protectant. Since coffeecolour isn’t a common practise, there isn’t a lot of information and methodology that I’ve been able to find so far, I’d like to remedy that!
Also exciting to me (hopefully not boring to you!) is swatching out different blends for specific colour variations. I tend to really like the more neutral, desaturated tones from dark roasts.
Pro-tip: to use the specialty coffee of your choice (and not rely on instant coffee) you just need to boil down your brew, in order to get it to the right consistency for the darkest values. You can always add water easily, but I like to boil down a good amount to subtract the water first.
Being that I am into details (apparently) – my next studies will include hand-picked varieties from Saskatchewan’s best brewers. I am keeping the bulk of my concepts a secret for now, but I will say, I want to celebrate our prairie province!
If you’ve read this far – (I’d like to say thanks!) and sign-off for now. Once I get going on these topics it’s hard to quit! I’m curious what you’d like to hear more about in the future (ie the process, the inspiration, my crazy life, anything!) I will definitely be brewing things up this year and I hope to do a better job of writing about it :)