Most of you already know how much Michael and I love coffee.
Over the years we’ve owned all sorts of coffee gadgets: single cup brewers, kettles, scales, grinders, tamps, water filtration devices — you name it. We take our coffee very seriously.
Michael even went through a period where he was buying green coffee beans online and roasting them in our apartment. (Which I think our neighbors found highly suspicious at the time since there was smoke billowing out of “that dude’s” apartment upstairs).
So of course over the years we’ve gotten a lot of coffee-related gifts for one another. You’d think we run out of ideas after a while but there’s always some new coffee gizmo or bean origin to try.
I was looking for more coffee gift ideas when I came across a bunch of these really cool paintings online that actually used coffee as their medium. I found everything from basic self-portraits to complicated Van Gogh reproductions. If you’ve never heard of anyone doing this before, you really should check out a few of them in this article here: 6 Talented Artists Who Paint with Coffee.
I’m no Van Gogh and I have hardly used a brush in my life, but I thought it might be fun to try painting something of my own using coffee.
There are heaps of tutorials on Pinterest and YouTube, but really if you have ever painted with watercolors then you can paint with coffee.
All you need is 140lb cold compressed watercolor paper, cheapie brushes (coffee is really hard on brushes so don’t waste your expensive brushes), towels, jars or a palette for different shades (strengths) of coffee, pencils for sketching, a white eraser and last but not least — some instant coffee!
You want to use instant coffee because it tastes so terrible that it really isn’t good for much else. Also.. it’s instant. When we make coffee around our place, it’s basically like a small chemistry experiment. It takes time and a lot of dancing around back and forth between timers and drawers and thermometers and scales. On a good day, I can make a single cup of coffee in under 10 minutes. So I’m not going to waste all that effort and deliciousness on anything but my ultra-refined tongue palate. (Get it because you know like when you’re painting you use a “palette”? I’m so funny.)
Ok so, I decided I wanted to paint an image of two trees connected at the roots. I just love trees, don’t you? And after all the growing and traveling and just LIFE Michael and I have shared together over the past nine years, I wanted to draw something that showed that. So I found some “inspiration” in a Google image search for “rooted trees” and did a small practice sketch in a notebook.
I got all of my supplies situated in my working area. (And that included an actually decent cup of coffee made from an organic, fair trade rainforest blend. Not the stale-barely-even-counts-as-coffee stuff I used for my painting. *Gag*)
I mixed three small jars of varying strengths/shades of coffee and started brushing on a base shade for the background. To give some texture, I took a clean brush, dipped it in water and flicked it all over the paper. (This is an easier way to create texture than using salt or rubbing alcohol).
After my background was dry I lightly sketched my trees. If you can or prefer to paint freehand you don’t have to do this step, but if you’re like me and need the guidelines then just make sure you have a white eraser if you need to erase a part of your sketch — which you may need to do if your lines are too hard. The pink eraser that comes with regular pencils will smear and leave marks on your work.
After I penciled-in all my lines, I could finally start coloring inside my drawing. MY FAVORITE.
Even Charlotte chipped in and helped!
Since my first layer of coffee was super light, I ended up going back over each twig, branch and leaf several times. A definite labor of love but so worth it!
Last of all, I painted a little border and flecked the edges some more with a clean brush and water to smooth out the hard lines.
(And just in case you’re judging me as a complete bean-fiend for the multiple Starbucks mugs of coffee in my pictures, I actually worked on this painting over the course of several days while Michael was at work because I wanted it to be a surprise. Each morning after he had left I pulled out all of my brushes from my craft box, the painting from under the bed, and the instant coffee hidden in the back of the fridge and set it all out. Then about an hour before he came home, I’d quickly rinse my brushes, stash the painting under the bed and put all my supplies back in my craft box so he wouldn’t notice they had been moved. Most of the time I’m just a two-cups-of-coffee-a-day kinda’ gal!)
We drove to St. Louis that weekend and I had a frame I ordered online shipped there. After we arrived I framed the painting, wrapped it and had ants in my pants waiting for his birthday to get here so he could finally open his gift!
So now we have this awesome little painting representing our marriage and being rooted together as one-flesh and all that other sappy stuff hanging up in our living room.
He writes me poems, I paint him trees, and we both drink coffee. What more could you ask for, huh?