For many aficionados, there's nothing more inspiring than the sweet, acidic scent of a fresh pot of java. For those artistically minded, there's a great combo to be had in a twist on the painting and wine phenomenon: painting with coffee.
But instead of just painting and drinks, this class paints with drink. Turns out — as a growing number of artists and crafters have discovered — coffee makes for a great watercolor paint with a deep, rich cafe color.
"It's something different," said Melissa Romero, who teaches painting with coffee through Art Room Events in Chicago. Her class Saturday, at Wicker Park coffee shop Bru Chicago, drew students all over the city and suburbs on a cold, winter morning.
"It's about bringing people together over this new medium," Romero continued. "People interact with each other and the coffee."
The subject of the class, "Starry Night" by Van Gogh, seemed intimidating at first. But when no one has used coffee to paint before, it levels the playing field, Romero said. Of course, when you add free coffee sampling and a pour over demonstration, people are happy no matter how their paintings turn out.
"We wanted to do something more creative," said Alyona Udartseva, owner of Bru Chicago, who started the coffee classes in July. "It's beyond BYOB."
Want to get started painting with coffee at home? Here's a quick tutorial.
The brushes: The coffee can make your brushes sticky, so there's no need to use expensive ones. Three sizes from any craft store will do: A half-inch flat brush and a small and medium round brush.
The paper: Watercolor paper is best. Romero and Udartseva recommend 90-pound paper.
The paint: Art Room Events uses a specially ground coffee — bad taste but good paint. Find it online for about $5 at artroomevents.com/blog/how-to-paint-with-coffee. Other blog sites say you can use instant coffee, but it's harder to manipulate.
The colors: Painting with coffee is painting with several shades of brown. Simply mix instant coffee with water. Put coffee in a small Dixie cup, then slowly add water with a dropper until it reaches the right color. For a dark brown, only add as much water as it takes for the powder to become a liquid. Romero recommends starting with three colors: light, medium and dark. You can add more mix or water to change the color as you go.
The technique: Use a sketching pencil to divide the sides of your paper into a grid of 16; make three small evenly-spaced lines along each side, to mark the grid. Quickly and lightly outline the main shapes. Start with the lightest color and paint the entire background, except what you want white. Then slowly fill in the shapes, lighter to darker, adding detail. It's important to wait for the paper to completely dry between each layer. Continue adding layers until you've completed your work!
Find a class: Find Art Room Events, such as Painting With Coffee, at dabble.co/chicago.