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Give me a break! : Coffee & cocoa painting

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Studying and working from home fills my life with virtuality, whether personal or professional matters. I used to have a better relationship with hobbies. But these days, they are often absent from my schedule. Realizing how important it is for my mental health to take a break from working on a laptop, I try to fit a hobby into my schedule along with my kind of meditation

The rules I set for my hobby: It has to be something that takes me away from virtuality. Something that allows me to pause from the headache of the real world and enter another world that is filled with calm, joy, and endless creativity.

The answer is painting. 

It was perfect timing when I started writing for the Collegian. I took the opportunity to reconnect with this hobby and create unique illustrations for my articles. If you’ve followed Seattle Collegian for a while, you might recognize these artworks from the column, “Give me a break!” 

The type of painting I do is coffee and cocoa painting. I have been doing this for years – off and on as a hobby. The cover photo is one of the first paintings of mine from the original film photo of my cat taken by my brother as shown below. 

Photo of my cat in Thailand
Gift Homsaen | The Seattle Collegian Photo of my cat in Thailand

My inspiration comes from whatever I care about most in that period of time. The cat painting existed because I missed my cat. I wrote articles about low-waste practices in my blog, so I painted pictures of objects relating to each article. The most recent ones, as mentioned, are paintings I made for my articles published at the Collegian.

Second-hand books - coffee painting
Gift Homsaen | The Seattle Collegian Second-hand books from Secondhand Books | The value of the imperfection

Bamboo toothbrushes - coffee painting
Gift Homsaen | The Seattle Collegian Bamboo toothbrushes from Bamboo Toothbrush | Keep your oral care harmless to the nature

Coffee bean hand grinder - coffee painting
Gift Homsaen | The Seattle Collegian Coffee bean hand grinder from Keurig Cups? Nope. Thank you.

The Craft Minded Blog Homepage - coffee painting
Gift Homsaen | The Seattle Collegian Blog Homepage: The Craft Minded

The Craft Minded Blog About page - coffee painting
Gift Homsaen | The Seattle Collegian Blog About page: The Craft Minded

Collegian’s column illustration - cocoa painting
Gift Homsaen | The Seattle Collegian Collegian’s column: Give me a break!

Collegian’s column illustration - cocoa painting
Gift Homsaen | The Seattle Collegian Collegian’s column: Give me a break!

Collegian’s column illustration - cocoa painting
Gift Homsaen | The Seattle Collegian Collegian’s column: Give me a break!

Let me introduce you to cocoa and coffee painting in this post. You will learn why it’s one of the easiest and most accessible hobbies there is and how to get started. 

Why cocoa or coffee painting? 

  • It’s cheap – we usually have these food items in our pantry. Also, they are relatively cheap and available in most grocery stores as well as painting paper and brushes. 
  • It’s easy – you work with a single color here. You can make different tones by mixing more water into it. It’s a good start for familiarizing yourself with this edible color before getting into a traditional watercolor painting if you want to go that route.
  • It’s environmentally friendly – cocoa and coffee come from nature. They’re not chemically produced or packed in excessive packaging, especially if you buy them in bulk with your own container. It’s the kind of activity that makes a small environmental impact.

    One tip to keep it even more earth-friendly: use the painting paper wisely. Regarding my artworks, you can see that I try my best to utilize the space on the paper because paper is a valuable resource made from trees. Painting reminds you to be mindful of the given resources and to maximize them in every way you can. 
  • It’s a hands-on, creative hobby – as mentioned, this hobby gives you a pause from digital tasks. It’s a hands-on activity that allows creativity to flourish. It reconnects you to one of the purest forms of artwork. Whatever you want to paint, follow your heart or take this chance to release frustrations from your mind. 

What is cocoa/coffee painting and how to prepare it?

The concept of creating this artwork is to use what I already have in my pantry without buying more materials or spending much time mixing different colors. 

What I do is brew a shot of espresso from my coffee machine – the more concentrated, the better the color is. One shot of espresso is around 20 fluid oz. To make a lighter tone, I drop a bit of water in a separate bowl and drip the coffee extract into it. Instant coffee powder also works well in this case if you don’t have a coffee machine. Just mix the powder with a small amount of hot water and add more water for a lighter color. 

Cocoa dissolve is simple. I scoop about one teaspoon of cocoa powder into a cup and drizzle hot water in it – about one to two teaspoons. Mix until the powder is thoroughly dissolved. I tend to make it very concentrated and make a lighter tone later if needed. 

Now coffee and cocoa dissolve are ready for painting. The rest of the materials are painting brushes (I suggest a small brush for outlining, medium for coloring small space, and large for coloring the background), painting paper (look up: Hot-press, cold-press, or rough paper), an extra cup of water for making lighter tones.

How to start? Take my paintings as examples. I like to paint the background first with the lightest tone because I don’t want my work to have white background from the paper color. Once it’s dry, I draft the picture with a pencil. The pencil draft has to be as light as possible because it can’t be erased when painted upon with coffee or cocoa dissolve. After drafting, you can start painting the picture. There will be times that you have to wait for some areas to dry before continuing. Use a hairdryer if impatient, but I’d rather wait. If you want some parts to be darker than the others, repaint them.

Recently, I use cocoa much more than coffee because my coffee machine can’t extract coffee that is dense enough for painting. Sometimes I use the hot coffee extract to dissolve cocoa powder. It doesn’t matter much as the colors are very similar. 

In summary… 

Entering the second month of 2021 is still tough for most people. 24 hours in a day doesn’t seem like enough to achieve what we want to. Many times we prioritize work over our health and wellness. Often, we overlook the importance of a hobby or disconnect from activities we used to enjoy. It’s never too late to balance a busy life with our favorite hobby or try a new one. It’s a little thing with magical power that immunizes us against stress. Cocoa and coffee painting is a perfect hobby to start with. Never get paralyzed from the belief that you’re not a good artist or you suck at painting or drawing. Let your head and heart guide you. Beauty is your own definition, not someone else’s. Ultimately, the goal of any hobby is to have a fun and relaxing time. 

Gift is a Programming AAS-T student and a Web Manager at the Seattle Collegian. She covers the column, Give me a break!, as she believes that everyone needs a break once in a while during this stressful time. She enjoys improving the Collegian website as much as writing, baking, making oat milk, and listening to podcasts.

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