This week was the birthday of Jackson Pollock – the man who popularized the splatter painting and a prominent artist in the abstract expressionist movement. Last week was the birthday of another celebrated artist, Édouard Manet. These birthday anniversaries got me thinking about these artists, and how they – among others – have influenced my work.
I am a watercolor artist. But instead of traditional watercolor paint, I use liquid coffee as paint. You may remember I was the featured artist at Barnie’s National Coffee Day event last year.
So why do I paint with coffee? This is probably the question I get asked the most.
Coffee is such a centerpiece of mainstream culture. Why not make coffee the primary ingredient of my art?
With coffee as my medium, I am in a monochromatic world. If I am going to communicate what I saw to the viewer, I have to do it with composition and tonal contrast.
Working with coffee allows me to layer. Sometimes as many as 12 layers deep to get detail I want in the shadows, while still maintaining a warm rich radiance that keeps the darkest areas full of life. Most people are startled to learn that they are looking at up to nine cups of coffee in just one painting!
Plus, when properly lit, my coffee paintings come to life with a deep, warm glow. I just can't duplicate that with traditional watercolors.
I feel that one of the truly amazing effects of art is its power to impact or touch the emotions of the viewer. I feel I achieve this best through coffee. Other artists have achieved this in their own ways.
Manet sought to evoke emotional responses. These emotions were accentuated in his signature Impressionism style. He is famous for stating, "I paint what I see, and not what others like to see."
Parisian cafés were the setting of many of Manet’s famous works. I can certainly relate to café culture being conductive to inspiration. The hum of activity helps provide a healthy interaction between the artist and humanity. I have had the pleasure of painting in the courtyard of Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen in Winter Park, which is reminiscent of one of Manet’s Parisian cafés.
Pollock's splatter abstract works captivate the imagination with color, line and texture. I have always been intrigued by modern and abstract art, marveling at how the pieces instantaneously “click” with me or not.
Further, I have always been drawn into the works of Rembrandt because of his strong sense of dramatic lighting.
Andrew Wyeth has particularly influenced my work, as he is known for painting unusual subjects with great attention to detail. His work authenticated my desire to paint things often missed by others.
All of these artists (and countless others I could name) helped to form my artistic vision, which centers around the revelation of overlooked or unseen experiential moments hidden within everyday life surrounding us.
Throughout my life I have always found myself seeing things differently than other people. When others would be noticing the mountain grandeur, I would be fascinated with how the drops of dew clung to the pine needles, or how the pine cones and needles gathered in abstract clumps on the ground.
My vision is to bring those hidden moments to the surface, and help all of us truly connect with the “big pictures” in a deeper, more emotional way. For instance, the mountain grandeur was picturesque, but the dew and pine needle compositions were there as well, and were part of the experience, even if subconsciously.
To see more of my coffee paintings, please visit www.stevenmikel.com.
All the best,