Gerard Tonti

A Stain in Time
Paintings Created with Coffee & Tea

The goal of this series is to capture moments of time in a place that is a part of our everyday life and culture, rendering them with the stains and pigments found in the coffee houses themselves. The project tries to capture the various individuals that you might find in these places. Each painting is unique to the houses and uses only coffees and teas.

Painting with coffee and tea is a very complicated process. Originally I became intrigued with using coffee and tea as a medium while studying Asian art. Tea and coffee have been used as dyes and stains for fabric and paper throughout history. I began using simple washes, using the stains as a water medium on watercolor paper. As my art progressed, I wanted to challenge myself. I thought it might be fun to experiment with various types of teas in order to achieve different color effects.

What you see in these paintings are the culmination of years of research with trial and error experiments. Getting the colors to keep their natural pigment without fading due to oxidation or ultraviolet light exposure were major problems to solve. Each tea and coffee used has its own chemical composition and must be treated differently. The binders and other mediums I use to make each stain into a permanent form of paint vary from one another. This makes mixing color very challenging. I must think about how each color and binder will react when combined. In order to resolve this, I mix each color separately and plan where each color will go before it is applied to the painting.

As an artist, I often found myself in coffee shops to do research for the next project. It was only natural for this new medium and the subject matter of candidly capturing people in coffee shops to eventually merge and become a body of my work. The goal is to capture a true stain — a moment in time.