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.
I was fortunate to have a traditional Scottish training at Edinburgh College of Art where I studied sculpture and painting. The first two years of my studies were devoted to intense observational drawing including anatomy, painting, sculpture and basic design. This training has formed a sound foundation to develop my own personal language—it still underwrites the essence of my work.
Although I work outdoors on location, I am not trying simply to represent my subject matter in a naturalistic way. My aim is not only to capture the energy and force of nature but also find an inner meaning.
My creativity is driven by the inner journey I am on—my ideas start in the unconscious. Initially my creative process starts with a feeling. I then look for a location that somehow connects with this feeling and through contemplation the meaning slowly emerges.
Having chosen a location, I get an image in my mind’s eye. I see the shape of the painting and the composition. At this point I not only draw up the outer shape and cut the MDF board, but I also work out my palette. I feel that the colour palette is the key to marrying the inner feeling I have to the timbre and mood of the painting and I give this very careful consideration. There is a colour concept behind my choice of colours.
I have found composing in irregular shapes a very dynamic process. Choosing which line to make first is the springboard on which the act of composing starts, so careful consideration is given to making the first mark. From this the image emerges and grows.
I work very slowly, mixing minute amounts of paint to get exactly the tone and intensity of colours I want. Although I represent the location I have chosen with a degree of accuracy, my process is a meditative one so the link with the subconscious is kept. It is only as the painting evolves that I understand the meaning it has for me.
My aim is to give the viewer the opportunity to tune into this, and also to provide them with the opportunity to travel around the world I have created to find their own meaning in it.
I try to incorporate time, speed, and breathing spaces in my work. An inner journey requires time and space. The speed of the journey varies so I see some shapes as slow shapes and some lines as fast lines. The spaces are areas that the viewer can sink into.
For example, in my series of healing pools, I have tried to create a vibrant and luminous simple shape in order to invite the viewer to spend time bathing in the healing colour of blue.
Recently, a London barrister bought my Deep Pool for her daughter who is seriously ill. This touched me deeply to think my painting might help her recovery. Finding a good home for my work is my idea of success!
Advantages and challenges of local marketing What are some of the benefits of local marketing? Naturally, you get to sell to people you know, or to someone who knows the people you know, and they get to buy from someone in their local community. It is a tremendous advantage when you’re not marketing your art […]
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If you didn’t get a chance to purchase one of the Crucible curved card scrapers, you can make your own with a dry grinder and an existing card scraper. It takes about 30 minutes.
Download and print out the following template. It’s a hand-drawn version of Chris Williams’s scraper, which is where our design started.
Cut it out and affix it to your card scraper with the help of spray adhesive. Or make a cardboard template and trace its shape on your scraper with a permanent marker.
At your grinder, set the tool rest to 0° – parallel to the floor. Dress the wheel of your grinder (we use an #80-grit wheel, but a #60 or #100 will also do) so it has a slight convex shape. This convexity in the wheel makes the scraper easier to shape.
Get a bucket of water and put it by the grinder.
(Hey wait, where are the step photos? I’m in a hotel room that’s 400 miles from my shop. You are going to have to use your imagination.)
Place the scraper on the tool rest and start grinding the excess metal away. Don’t work on one part of the scraper for more than a few seconds. Keep moving around the perimeter. After 10 or 15 seconds, try to pinch the scraper with a finger and thumb. If….
… you can pinch the scraper with no pain, continue to grind.
… your fingers reflexively jump away, cool the scraper in your water bucket.
… you smell bacon, also cool the scraper in the water bucket.
Once you have ground down to your line, you will have become pretty good at grinding flat shapes – congrats. Now you need to remove the grinder marks from the edges.
Use a block of wood to hold the scraper at 90° on a coarse diamond stone and stone the edges. Remove all the scratches from the grinder. Then move up to a #1,000-grit waterstone (or soft Arkansas) and then up to a polishing stone. Then you can proceed with normal scraper-sharpening procedures.
This is exactly how I made all of our prototypes. I promise that you will become emotionally involved with your scraper after putting all the work into it, and you might not ever want to buy one of ours.
So be it.
— Christopher Schwarz