Artist Ilona Zabolotna paints portraits that capture the personality of her subjects, using coffee as a medium. View more of her work by visiting her website.
I am a coffee painting artist living in upstate New York in Saratoga County. I was born into a family of artists, so my first and best art teacher was my dad. He is a great graphic artist and oil painter. After college, however, I decided to ignore his advice and made the choice to pursue ceramics art and sculpture. I got my Masters Degree at Lviv National Academy of Decorative and Applied Arts in my native country of Ukraine.
I wanted to be an artist from an early age, and I love to work in different mediums. I didn’t think about how important it was for me to create until I was facing the difficult challenge of beginning a new life as an immigrant and couldn’t make the time to work on my art as much as I wanted.
I was depressed and unhappy until I was inspired to use coffee as a medium for painting. Coffee painting gave me the opportunity to combine my other jobs and art. I do not have to depend on daylight anymore and I don’t need special equipment to paint with coffee. This medium has inspired me to develop new techniques.
I couldn’t find any useful information about the technique of painting with coffee, so I started to do my own experiments to create the dark, intense color I needed and to learn what works best as a fixative for my finished work.
To get dark, thick coffee color for my paintings, I collect and settle brewed espresso for several months. When it becomes dry, I bake it in the oven at a high temperature and then mix it with fresh coffee.
I love to use people as my models to add emotion to my art pieces. I really enjoy doing portraits and I am always trying to capture the spirit and the expression of my subjects.
Whether I do a portrait of a woman, a man or a pet, I’m always attentive to small details and try to imagine that I’ve known them for a long time. I think about what kind of details make this particular face special.
In my coffee paintings I combine realism with an abstract background, fitting them to each other, complementing them with lines and areas of different tones, creating gradations from the white canvas to the darkness of the coffee.
I let the coffee “talk” by pouring it on the canvas, most of the time waiting until it is almost dry. At this point, it could change everything, and it looks like the image is having a dialog with the medium.
I want to convey my inspiration with the medium of coffee, choosing themes that I feel everyone can relate to—little joyful moments in life. I never work on my paintings when I’m in a bad mood or unhappy. All my paintings are made from my soul and are full of love.