Gerard Tonti has been experimenting with his coffee and tea medium for the past eight years. It has been a complicated process full of trial and error. “It’s a very alchemical process”. Originally he was drawn to the idea of painting with stains while studying the role of tea in asian cultures. Throughout history, tea and coffee have been used as dyes and stains for fabric and paper. “I thought it would be fun to take it as far as I could go”. Starting with simple washes done with coffee, the early attempts were done 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 and try to retain the their natural vibrant colors.”

What you see in the finished 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 have their own chemical composition and must be treated differently. The binders and other mediums Tonti uses to make each stain into a permanent form of paint vary from one to the next. This makes mixing color very challenging. Thought must be given to how each color and binder will react when combined. In order to resolve this, each color is bound separately.

There’s something about a fresh cup of coffee or tea. The rich taste of Espresso and the deep orange color of Rooibos tea produce distinct flavor and color. I see the creative opportunities in every leaf and bean. The process is alchemical. It can be both frustrating and rewarding. Some stains are more controllable than others. To me art is about the balance of the controllable and the uncontrollable while accepting the accidents along the way.

For more information, visit Gerard’s website