Having a Cup of Coffee With Coffee Artist Karen Eland
2. Describe your current surrounding.
Coffeehouse Northwest in Portland, OR. Brick walls and simple wood, vintage chandelier glowing on my delicious Cappuccino. Queen playing on the stereo!
3. Do you like reading books, magazines, etc.?
I actually listen to books more than I read them- while painting it keeps just enough of my mind occupied and focused. I find it has to be a certain type of book- some kind of mystery or adventure, not too heavy. I can't seem to paint while trying to catch up on the classics of fine literature; I have to actually be reading to enjoy those. But a little Agatha Christie goes a long way while painting! Perhaps it's silly, but it works for me. Podcasts like Radiolab are great too. If I start browsing a magazine (I love architecture, food, travel ones) I have to look at every picture and page before putting it down.
4. When you were child, did you want to become artist or you wanted something else?
In 3rd grade I remember dressing up as an artist for 'what you want to be' day, though it wasn't really a driving goal of mine. I had so many different interests and rather accidentally ended up becoming an artist rather than an architect, interior designer, humanitarian aid worker, traveler, or teacher, all of which I have been interested in.
5. Why are you an artist, and when did you first become one?
I have always loved the process of making art and felt encouraged by postive feedback during my childhood. At 13 I took a watercolor portrait class at an art store which led to some commissions, which I guess made me officially (occasionally) employed as an artist.
6. Could you tell us something more about your work?
Painting with coffee is similar to watercolor, but more delicate; I enjoy coaxing the espresso into gentle shadings and layers until the piece looks like the photo or masterpiece I'm working from. Some artists work best from the images in their minds, others from what they can see before them, and I'm in that second category. It's very satisfying to see a piece develop as I work.
Funny story about the first coffee painting I did- Mona Latte survived being sat on in my car by a bunch of dripping friends as we fled a near-tornado in Oklahoma! She suffered a few waterspots but her sturdiness and repairability convinced me further that coffee could be a legitimate kind of paint.7. Describe your style and how it would someone else describe it, your best friend for instance?
Realism, for the most part.8. Please describe an evolution of your work from your first projects to today.
The first day I tried coffee art I experimented with using actual coffee grounds- they dried and fell off. Next was drip coffee- too runny. Finally espresso, which was just right, so I decided to try a 'real' painting to see if coffee could do it. Mona Lisa was so recognizable and she could easily hold a coffee cup, so the string of masterpieces repainted in coffee began. Within the past 2 years I've started to do more of my own ideas and compositions, such as scenes from my travels to Venice and New York, latte art, and so on, while still exploring the old masters.9. What was your first project that has given you the most satisfaction?
I was thrilled to paint 2 murals for Espresso Vivace in Seattle. Each took about 6 months to complete and depict the history of espresso and the shop's own history. These projects have been the biggest ones so far, and challenging without being frustrating. Seeing them installed was a joy and definitely satisfying.10. Do you have any future ideas or projects waiting for you?
I just started a series on coffee from the farm to the cup, including pictures of farms, plants, processing the beans, and so on, also a potential ceiling mural in a coffeehouse in Hamburg, Germany.11. Who would you like to draw?
I would like to draw/paint some people who work on coffee farms, capturing their faces and helping coffee consumers connect to the people who work so hard to get the coffee to them.
12. Is there anyone who has influence at your work?
Many of the great masters, especially Van Gogh (more by his letters and life than my style matching his), and Vermeer's realism and light. Most of all, my teacher Elizabeth Linder back when I was 13. She unlocked the technical side of painting for me and I'm forever grateful.
13. What other interests do you have outside of creating art?
Dancing (Lindy Hop/swing, ballroom, Latin, etc.), cooking for groups of friends and friendships in general, being outside in beautiful nature, live music, making espresso drinks
14. How have you handled the business side of being an artist?
Not very well! It's been hard to know what to charge, how to market the art, take care of taxes and so on. Thankfully I have a brother who is skilled in these areas and has come alongside to help me out.
15. What are the best and worst parts of being artist?
Best- I love the flexible schedule and the feeling of being in the moment, creating, lost in the painting and having it work. Worst- irregular income, taking care of the business details.
16. What advice would you give to the young artists?
Do what you love, learn wherever you can, and try whatever pops into your head at least once
17. If you have to add something more, please do it. I welcome further suggestions and commissions. Thank you Karen! Don't miss Karen's Website! All images were presented at Weird Worm in agreement with the author.
Exclusive interview © Weird Worm. Interviewer Jovan Marić