Michael Aaron Williams, a self-described coffee addict who feels like a “sorority girl” over spiced pumpkin lattes, utilizes brewed coffee to paint to on vintage ledger paper found in his family’s old Appalachian store.  When asked by ModernMet why he chose coffee as his medium, he replied: “It seems to just fit right in to the natural colors found in antique paper. It can be used very much like watercolors except it’s less expensive and it smells great! You just have to brew it strong.”

Most of my paintings in recent years have focused on using coffee and ink on antique ledger paper to create ethereal portraits that reveal the ephemeral nature of people and society. The ledger paper comes from an old, rural Appalachian store that has been unused since its heyday in the 1920′s, 30′s and 40′s. The images are entirely rendered using a brush, lots of coffee, and a bit of ink for the darkest darks. Much of the subject matter and themes revolve around my connection with my Appalachian heritage.


Native to east Africa, coffee trees were first used for their cherry-like fruits and leaves, originally brewed to make tea. The coffee beans themselves are the seeds of two species of trees: coffea arabica, producing the more popular “arabica” beans, and coffea canephora bearing the “robusta” beans.

When did you begin pursuing an interest in the arts?

I always loved making things with my hands and growing up on a farm, this manifested itself in building forts and the like. So when I was required to take my first art class in High School, I immediately fell in love with the act of creating artwork with my hands. After this class, I was asked to be placed in AP courses and this really jump-started my interest in the arts. It has become an obsession ever since. Since then my art journey has taken me around the world and I grow more obsessed every day.

How and why did you choose coffee as your medium?

I love antique and old things. I love the connection that they have to the past. So when I found the antique ledger papers in an abandoned rural Appalachian store, I wanted to find a way to use them. I tried many different inks and paints and found that coffee created the most natural appearance. As if the image was aged into the paper so it just stuck ever since.

Any significance on utilizing paper from the early 1900s?

Yes of course. My art focuses on attempting to connect with people as I believe art allows. I think that people really connect to the paper as a relic to the past and it just draws people in. There is so much history there. A lot of my work focuses on the ephemerality of people and culture… and I think that the paper lends itself to reflecting on our own history and those that have come before us. When reading the ledgers, you are peering into the daily lives of people long past. Interestingly, these ledgers are from my great-great-grandparents store. So, it is my own ancestors writing on the ledgers. So for me personally, I am connecting with them through these artworks.

Are you a fan of coffee? If so, how do you like yours?

I am addicted. It is bad. I love just coffee with cream honestly, but my guilty pleasure is pumpkin spice lattes. It makes me feel like a sorority girl but it is worth it.

Michael Aaron Williams Coffee Art foxes-birds-1-web

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