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Taking Coffee Art to the Next Level: Coffee Watercolors

Updated on November 27, 2009

When you hear the words coffee art your mind is bound to wander off to a land of velvety swirled milk and rich espressos.

To Karen Eland, on the other hand, coffee art means something quite different. As a budding coffeehouse barista and a casual painter, Eland considered the idea of painting with espresso one day in 1997. Experimenting with liquid coffee and a brush, she developed a knack for extracting a range of colors. From faint tan to ruddy brown, the espresso painting soon proved to be a relief for this burned-out watercolor novice.

Eland soon went on to recreate famous paintings with a coffee twist, to say the least. Eland’s coffee art presents kitschy fun on many levels. The coffee theme, first of all is physical. The rich tones of brown visually reference coffee, while perhaps the originals even exude a bit of that nutty coffee aroma. The coffee concept is punned into the names of the paintings. Replacing Whistler’s Mother for Whistler’s Mocha and Mona Lisa for Mona Latte, Eland adds a little caffeinated chuckle to each painting. The laugh might actually set in when you catch the little porcelain coffee tazza sitting boldly in the corners of legendary work of art.

Naturally the artwork’s meaning begin to morph when all the roads lead to coffee. With modern coffee conversations strongly loaded with the words fair trade, justice, equality and ethics, there is much opportunity for artists to re-explore and rehash themes of identity (Van Gogh’s Self Portrait), discovery (Da Vinci’s Last Supper), beauty (Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa), movement (Degas’ Dance Class at the Opera), and humanity (Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel centerpiece, Creation of Adam) to allude to these contemporary coffee issues. But short of any depth, the physical and conceptual punning in Eland’s paintings simply results in a bit of chuckle. Distanced again from the origins and issues that surround the trade of coffee, all roads lead to the idea of a comforting cup--a simple piece of a daily routine. And for what it’s worth, playing with food never seemed as beautiful.

Today Eland, sells her espresso infused prints as inkjet copies, greeting cards. She also completes unique works on commission.

Your Experiences

When you're sipping your espresso in local coffeehouse or when you’re drinking your Keurig brew from your trusty mug, have you ever considered indulging in some coffee art yourself? While most people would never considering brewing up a cup of strong espresso to express themselves, many want to try their hand at some barista wristwork. Latte art is a common coffee art form. With just a deep roasted shot of espresso and some silky foamed milk, you could try freehand creative pouring yourself. The trick is of course to start with a deep roast of espresso, perfectly boasting oils and body. Then of course you’d need steamed milk. The last thing you need is some practice pouring the milk into the coffee, flicking your wrist to create hearts, leafs, and stars.

If you don’t have an espresso machine at home, you could resort to creating a strong brew from your filter machine or cafetiere. More effectively you could order an espresso roast for your one-cup brewer, like Green Mountain Coffee’s Espresso Blend, to extract that perfect shot.


For more information on Karen Eland's coffee creations, check out her website Coffee Art.

Your Experiences

Have you ever tried your hand at any for of coffee art?

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      8 years ago

      Hi, I usually aim for a rosetta, they flow the best. (I work in a coffee house you see)


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