Spend some time looking at coffee-related photos on Instagram and you will quickly come across a niche of artists who draw on disposable coffee cups (just take a look at #coffeecupart). Josh Hara is one of them, but his work is distinct: his comics are feisty, often with a little pointed humor—exactly what you want with that first cup of black goodness in the morning.
For example: a comic celebrating National Siblings Day accurately depicting some of the youthful torment siblings inflict on each other.
From the look of his Instagram feed, you might think that Hara works in the coffee world—and thus has an endless supply of cups on hand—but he’s just an avid coffee drinker (and a creative director at an ad agency by day). We caught up with him to learn more about his creative process and his cheeky sense of humor.
How would friends of yours finish this statement: “Josh is…”?
Josh is the most handsome person for his height I have ever seen. His hair, though thinning, has Don Draper-esque qualities that should be admired and studied for the benefit of future generations.
How did you get started doing drawings on coffee cups?
For years, I have been wanting to get back into cartooning. I used to fill sketchbooks with great regularity and even had a web comic that I maintained in the early days of the Internet. But over time, work and life took precedence over my inky flights of fancy. But every day, I stared at the blank side of my Starbucks coffee cup and admired what a nice drawing surface it was. Then one day a coffee-inspired cartoon popped into my head, and I thought drawing it on the side of the cup would make it all the funnier.
How has your work evolved since then?
After the first few cups were complete, my boss at work suggested the hashtag #100CoffeeCups. It felt right, and 100 seemed doable before the end of the year . So I went with it. Then, sometime in mid-October, the project got picked up by Mashable, then Buzzfeed, then a host of other media outlets. My Instagram audience went from 7,000 to 57,000 in the week that followed. That was all the encouragement I needed to keep going.
What are some of your favorite recent pieces?
I love this one for its simplicity. The idea of Death being my life coach is funny because it’s true.
This one is kind of stupid, but even when I sketched it in my sketchbook the little coffee yelling “HEYOOOOOOOOO!” kept making me laugh. I love anthropomorphizing things in my work. Breathing life into the lifeless, like Dr. Frankenstein, or whoever put the spell on all the housewares in Beauty and the Beast.
Decaf jokes are played-out, but I like putting a little more effort into the drawing sometimes.
I love when the joke doesn’t have to be told and can simply be seen.
My tribute cups are happening way too often in 2016, but this one stood out as it was the first time I ever used watercolors, a medium I loved working with when I was in art school, on a cup. I was pleased with how it came out.
Tell us more about your creative process. How do you come up with an idea for a comic? How long does it take to draw? Are you drawing on full coffee cups or empty ones?
Sometimes I try and do things that are timely, and sometimes I hear something, read something, or unconsciously draw something in a sketchbook that turns into a funny cartoon idea. I always sketch the idea out on paper first, to get a feel for how to make the best use of the limited space. Then I pencil the cup, ink it, and sometimes color it in. Most cups [take me] in the two-to-three-hour range on average. And you are the second person to ask if I am drawing on full cups! Definitely not. That would lead to a lot of coffee stains, scalding burns, and god knows what else. All cups are totally empty and bone-dry—after each one is complete, I usually leave it somewhere around my house until my wife yells at me, and then I stack them up and throw them into a big plastic tub in my basement.
Your humor is definitely punchy. In a saccharin world where most Instagram feeds are full of #blessed and beautiful shots of cappuccinos next to succulent plants, how do you feel people respond to your work?
People have always loved cartoons. They ask very little, and when done right, give so much. They are perfect for the short-attention-span society the Internet has cultivated over the last 20 years.
It looks like you only draw on Starbucks cups. Any particular reason?
Yes they are, and yes there is a reason: I drink a shitload of Starbucks.
What are some of your sources of inspiration?
Coffee, culture, and canines.
What coffee are you drinking right now?
It’s pretty late, and I’m supposed to be writing a script for work, so I am drinking a Starbucks Keurig Blonde Roast. Which I know is horrible for the planet, but as soon as the Earth can find a way to conveniently make me a sustainable cup of coffee when I need it in a pinch, I will stop, I promise.
Favorite coffee shop?
I know coffee purists think I am crazy for drinking Starbucks every day, and I know there are better-tasting coffees out there, but I am a coffee populist. And frankly, [Starbucks’] caffeine content is well above every other chain, so that’s where I go.
If you could drink coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
The CEO of Starbucks. So I can discuss doing this full-time.
Anna Brones (@annabrones) is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in the American Pacific Northwest, the founder of Foodie Underground, and the co-author of Fika: The Art Of The Swedish Coffee Break. Read more Anna Brones on Sprudge.