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The Art of Spilled Coffee

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“In my head, I’m a designer first and foremost. I just pattern my designs with spilled coffee.”

Jon Norquist discovered a new avenue for his creativity from spilled coffee. His artwork grew from his kitchen table in Tacoma, Washington to being featured on major media outlets and live corporate events around the country.

Q: Tell us about your background?

A: I was always creative – always painting and sketching. But I was a civil engineer by schooling after I went to West Point. So military plus civil engineer. When this whole thing got started, I was working as a fulltime civil engineer - with a family of 5. I had a busy life, but didn’t feel like I was scratching any of my creative itch. I would go out of my way to create another hobby on top of everything else, just constantly painting and sketching.

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It’s all about organic creativity….

Q: How did you create art from coffee?

A: I was looking for a way to be creative organically while continuously sketching. One night, I spilled coffee on the countertop – just dribbles of it. I see a design of a pattern in my mind and think if I can outline it in black ink, it can be cool abstract art. Organic creativity just naturally worked its way into my life. I began taping sketching paper to all the countertops and having my family dribble coffee on it.

Next, I started gifting art pieces for family and friends, which was a big hit. I created more pieces and tried to get them into art galleries. I had my big break when I accidentally ended up at a coffeeshop/bakery called Corina bakery in Tacoma. The owner wanted to display my work inside and I started getting recognition from her customers, who also let media outlets know about my work and it just blew up from there.

Q: What’s your process in creating these pieces?

A: I already have the design in mind when I start. I protect the areas I don’t want coffee spilled on using a combination of different things. Then I start spilling coffee on canvas (or multiple individuals do it during a live event). When I’m ready to be done, I remove the protection, clean up the coffee that made its way into the negative space and the design is mostly there. I finish by outlining everything in black ink.

Q: What are some of your favorite art pieces or exhibitions/brands you’ve worked with?

A: I’ve done live demonstrations for an NFL team, Dunkin’ Donuts and Folgers. For Folgers, I did live art with influencers spilling coffee on canvas for their 1850 coffee anniversary. Live art is near and dear to my heart because of the group participation. I like to drag out the spilling process because that's the creative part for everybody. In the end, I did about 8 pieces for Folgers.

My other favorite exhibition was something I did for an “NFL team” (you can guess) to announce their 2018 schedule drop. Their vision was to marry the coffee culture in Seattle and also celebrate their fans. I did a 5 ft by 4 ft piece for their 2018 schedule release, along with Seattle scenes featuring the fans. The team also commissioned a latte artist, who then created logos of the teams in latte art on the schedule against my spilled coffee background.

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Q: What’s your favorite thing about what you do?

A: There are 2 things I love about this creative process.

1) You can find beauty everywhere. I just happened to find beauty in spilled coffee.

2) Anyone can be creative if they want to be and that’s the reason I do live art. I like people spilling coffee on the canvas and being part of the creative process. They get to see the fruit of their creativity and it’s a great conversation piece.

Q: How can people work with you?

A: I get private buyers and also do corporate events. For my custom artwork, I tell people, whatever topic you’re into, I’ll caffeinate it! I also sell prints and stock artwork as well, which is very affordable.

Q: Lastly, what’s your favorite coffee drink and coffee shop?

A: I’m simple. I grew up with Folgers because of my grandmother and now I drink Seattle’s Best #4. I take it black with a little cream.

My favorite shop is Corina Bakery, because they gave me my big break. I still meet with clients there and their vibe inside is just awesome.

Learn more on custom coffee artwork

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