Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Father's Day Art

I didn't drink coffee (or any other caffeine) until I was in my late twenties and in graduate school. After graduating I weaned myself from coffee to tea and then completely away from my caffeine addiction...just to know I could do it. Then I had kids and I jumped whole-heartedly back on the coffee wagon. I love the hot cup in my hands as much as the perk it gives me to engage thoughtfully in the day.

When I heard Brady Rymer's song "Keep Up with You" I loved it. The lyrics resonate with everyone in my family regarding our morning ritual around the coffee maker.
Mama needs a coffee
every morning
if she's ever gonna keep up with you.
Like all coffee-drinking families, we all have experience with the mistakes made around the ritual. We've forgotten to empty the pot before making more, which makes for a massive overflow all over the counter. We've forgotten to put water in the water reservoir, making for an unmistakable "hiss" of the machine attempting to do its job. And, of course, we all are familiar with the coffee ring...especially my husband, who is a self-proclaimed klutz and spills and splashes regularly (until he's had his morning coffee).

He is also a physicist. So when I saw the article (including the picture of coffee rings on paper) on NPR about how "Scientists Crack the Physics of Coffee Rings" I felt inspired. I knew just what my physicist husband might like for a Father's Day gift - coffee ring art.

Ideally my kids will make some art on their own. But before I could facilitate such an undertaking I knew I would have to do a little research first. Plus, by documenting my research I figured I could show you my process and share what I've learned so you can make your own art.

First I had to find the right paper. I tried making rings on all the stuff I had sitting around the house. I made coffee rings on all kinds of paper and paper towel. Some paper is too glossy and the coffee would roll off more than make the desired ring. The pre-stretched canvas was too glossy, too. Paper towel was too absorbent (duh). Computer paper was too thin and didn't leave me with anything that would make a good gift. Then I realized that water color paper would probably be the perfect medium. So I headed to the store looking for something easy. I was hoping to find something like a pre-stretched canvas so that I wouldn't have to frame our art. But most of the pre-stretched canvas was labeled that it was designed for work with acrylics, not water colors.

Then I found some canvas-like materials. They are "panels" which means the paper is stretched around a narrow board as opposed to the canvases that I was familiar with, which are 0.5" or 1" deep. The panels come in various sizes 5x7, 8x10, 9x12. I'm testing my process with a small one:

I set up my work station with the panel and a saucer filled with a shallow puddles of coffee and an empty coffee cup.

I dipped the coffee cup.

Then I tried to use it as a stamp. It made some nice patterns on the panel.

My second test was to let the mug sit for a while. I set it and left it for a while. Since all three of us were sick that day it sat for a LONG time...the length of the new Tinkerbell movie.

You see the stamp had dried with the unique coffee pattern with coffee color dark at the edges than in the middle. The shape made by the mug sitting was enclosed.

Over the course of the afternoon I played with stamping and letting the mugs sit for short periods of time. The full ring can be made after sitting for a few minutes (you do not have to wait the length of an entire feature-lengthed film). This is the result of the dried coffee ring art:

There are different ways you can finish this art. You could leave it as the rings. You could write a catchy coffee phrase on it. I chose to use some watercolors to fill in the enclosed spaces.

This will be my part of the coffee ring art that I will give my husband. I will invite Mikey and Anna to make their own coffee ring art. And I'm hoping that I can "finish" theirs by writing a variation on Brady Rymer's song: 

"Papa Needs a Coffee..." on one panel,
 and  "...Every Morning." on the other.
Like any art project I don't know what to expect from Mikey and Anna. I think they will be able to do their own coffee ring art. I will just have to decide how much input I have and how much I will let them choose their own creative plan. But with this as a model, they might have some patience to listen to my ideas. Plus, having done my research I feel prepared to offer guidance so we can make my husband a beautiful and personal gift.

Mikey's Coffee Stain Art

Anna's Coffee Stain Art

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