There is something playful happening at Cafe Grumpy on 193 Meserole Avenue. It stops me when I’m looking for a seat in the recently renovated space—almost a dozen colorful and fun paintings made with brewed coffee, pen, ink, and watercolor line the walls in neat wooden frames. I want one, I think, and my best friend will want one, too. The barista confirms that he wants one as well, and so I look up the artist: Craig Peterson of Indiana, Pennsylvania. A day later, we discuss his “Coffee Art” series via telephone.
GPers: Where are you right now?
CP: Right now, I live in Indiana, P-A. I’m originally from Mahaffey, P-A.
GPers: How would you describe your hometown?
CP: (laughs) Middle of nowhere, nothing to do. I came to Indiana to go to IUP [Indiana University of Pennsylvania]. I started off at IUP with Art Education, but I didn’t want to teach art so I switched to Exercise Science.
GPers: How many cups of coffee do you drink per day?
CP: I don’t drink that much coffee. I honestly drink one cup per day before I go to work. I just make it at home.
GPers: So what sparked the idea to work with coffee?
CP: I think five years ago, around Christmas time, I made my mom a ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ sign and had calligraphy letters. I wanted to make an older-looking piece of paper. I used tea first, but it didn’t come out. And then I tried coffee. I was sitting in the kitchen with a hair dryer and was doing layers. The coffee made a really cool background.
From there, I didn’t make anything for a long time. But almost two years ago, I started making the coffee art again, just to mess around with it. I was painting it and layering it, and started posting [the pieces]. My friends started to order it from me, unframed. Initially, it was all sharpie and silhouette casing. Around May, I started to add watercolor, pen, and ink.
GPers: What is the process like to create one of your Coffee Art pieces?
CP: I use thicker drawing paper, and cut it as I need it. I already have a station of coffee cups full of coffee. I don’t use any specific brand to do the art; it’s just kind of whatever I have. I put a layer on the paper and let it dry. I’ll come back after a couple of minutes or hours will paint the piece or draw it, and will usually incorporate coffee cup rings into it. That’s kind of the last step: the coffee ring is the only intentional part.
GPers: I see themes: sailing, nature, and animals. Are those tied into your passions or hobbies?
CP: I’ve never gone sailing or even been on a sailboat. They just kind of
worked for me. I’m really outdoors-y. I do a lot of trail running. I love snowboarding, mountain biking, and slacklining. The animals, they kind of work with my artwork. Around here, because I’m in western P-A, I sell a lot of hunting pieces and deer silhouettes.
GPers: How did you find out about Café Grumpy?
CP: They actually found me. Lisa, the brand manager found me, through my Instagram and was following me. She e-mailed me one day and asked if I would want to display my artwork at the cafe. She thought it was really cool stuff, and was trying to find artists that used coffee.
GPers: Do you know the area well enough to have a favorite spot? Or maybe your favorite place to hang out in NYC?
CP: Before I brought my paintings up there, I was only in New York City one other time. And I was never in Brooklyn before.
GPers: What did you think of New York?
CP: It’s a cool city. I was kind of surprised since everyone complains about driving there, but it was fine traffic-wise and getting around. I found a nice little diner, and we had breakfast there. There was a festival going on outside while I was there [in November] with a lot of food vendors and beer vendors. I also found the Artist & Fleas. That was really cool.
GPers: Any plans to move to New York?
CP: I don’t have any plans to move to New York right now. If I could move anywhere, I think I’d move to Colorado because of my active lifestyle.
GPers: Are you working on another series or project right now?
CP: Most of the work I do right now is pretty much with coffee, and I don’t think anyone else does this kind of artwork so it’s pretty unique. I think I’m going to keep trying different subjects. I want to make bigger, nicer, and more in depth pieces and get more exposure.†
Craig Peterson is an artist based in Indiana, Pennsylvania. You can follow him on Instagram or Twitter @artworkontherun or Facebook. His “Coffee Art” series will be on view until January 3, 2015 at Cafe Grumpy.