Friday, December 4, 2020

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Iowa Artist

Coffee artist

4/1/2020

Paints with coffee; art at Starbucks corporate

Betty Walker says people mistakenly think she paints with the same coffee she drinks with.

As a regular coffee drinker, I spill a lot on my notes and stain my clothes.

However, artist Betty Walker likes how coffee looks on paper. As a coffee artist, her art doesn’t consist of a coffee cup ring splattered by accident on paper. Walker explains more about her coffee art and how her painting landed at Starbucks corporate office.

While at the Dreiberge Coffee shop in Des Moines, the owners returned from Europe and asked Walker if she’d heard of coffee painting. She said no, and they gave her a bag of coffee beans for an Instagram challenge.

It took her nearly two weeks of chemistry experiments to come up with a thick solution, dark enough to paint with. She micro grinds the coffee beans, then boils it for 20 minutes. She strains the water through a coffee filter, and what’s left at the bottom of the pot, often known as sludge, is how her paint is created.

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Different beans produce different minerals, depending on where the beans are grown. The Sumatra blend has more yellow tones; Guatemalan contains more tan.

Walker, a self-taught coffee artist, says, “It’s something you have to experiment with. Coffee has a naturally occurring oil, and you have to be cognizant of how it dries. If you rush it, it brews into a blob on the paper.”

She avoids canvas paper, since coffee repels on the surface. To make the paint color lighter, she simply adds water. When finished, she seals the painting, as humidity and other factors affect drying time.

Coffee shops gravitate toward her artwork. She was one of 31 artists selected for the New York Coffee Festival last year. Her painting was part of Project Waterfall, a fundraiser to bring clean water to coffee-growing countries. Her artwork was a painting of a map of the world, with green tones in the heavily concentrated coffee growing belt regions. The whole project took 25 hours and was sold for charity.

“I was very excited to be selected. It turned out beautiful,” she says.

Last year, she painted live in Chicago at a Starbucks employees conference. For three days, she painted a 5-foot by 3-foot mural, with 15,000 Starbucks employees walking past her. The completed painting now hangs in Starbuck corporate office in Seattle.

“People know their coffee. It’s a different experience when you’re drilled by the vice president of Starbucks,” she says.’

Small coffee shop owners send her their beans, and she paints unique custom artwork.

During art shows, some people are confused and think she spilled coffee.

“I started showing my paint container. People are intrigued and drawn to it,” she says.

Artwork is her passion and not just a side job.

“It’s been a great, wonderful and amazing ride. I’m excited to see what happens next,” she says. ♦

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