Using dried leaves as canvases and tiny coffee-stained thumbprints for backgrounds, Ghidaq al-Nizar makes artwork that is anything but average. Indonesia-based al-Nizar crafts miniature, detailed scenes with coffee as the main element. Known on Instagram as @coffeetopia, his pieces are inspiring to artists and coffee lovers alike, challenging us to rethink how our favorite drink can be used.
Both an artist and environmentalist, al-Nizar puts his green thinking into many of his pieces. His Zero Waste Coffee series is a way to raise awareness about coffee’s waste products, so you can be sure that when he’s painting with coffee, he isn’t brewing batches specifically for his art. “I paint a mini painting because I don’t play with my drink, it’s a remnant,” says al-Nizar. The making of those mini paintings is an art in and of itself, a practice in patience that brings him closer to the canvas: al-Nizar paints drop by drop, waiting until each drop dries before adding the next.
Among his favorite recent work is his Womb of Love series, paintings of pregnant women that he made as a tribute to the mothers of the world. The scale is tiny, with a fingerprint as the center of the image, and what you might not get from the Instagram photos is that he used his own mother’s fingerprint for the series, “to make it more authentic and intimate,” says al-Nizar.
Although his intricate work is the result of great focus, don’t think al-Nizar isn’t human just like the rest of us. “Sometimes, when I come to the smallest details, I really want to crush them all, just smudge it,” al-Nizar confesses. But the artist within him prevails: “The feeling to make your vision become real is stronger.”
Al-Nizar’s work is inspiring to say the very least, so we caught up with him to learn more about his process and his own inspiration.
How did you get started doing your work, and how has it evolved since then?
I have two kinds of art related to coffee painting. The first one is latte art, and the second is zero waste coffee, where I use coffee stains and [grounds] for the composition.
There was a [time] when I went to a cafe and the barista served me rosetta [latte art]…and at that moment I sighed. I was bored with that. I am very spoiled when it comes to coffee. It’s not only my tongue having coffee but also my eyes enjoying it. So I began to make my own latte art, drew it as beautiful as I wanted it to be. From that moment, my adventure began.
My #zerowastecoffee art started one morning when I was too lazy to make a milk foam [for etching my coffee]. I went to the kitchen and made a cup of ground coffee. When I came to the bottom of the cup, I saw the grounds! I imagined Grim was there, a fictional creature from Harry Potter. My mind and hands began to work…eventually I impressed myself. Sometimes you don’t need to think too much—just see and feel.
What do you want people to take away from your work?
It is about celebration! I really want people to at least catch the simplest meaning of what I’m doing, that it is not about how talented we are, it is how we celebrate our lives, to love more, to spread more peace. And enjoy every drop of your coffee!
A lot of your work is very detailed—what is it about working on that small of a scale that appeals to you?
It is about patience and constant focus. I guess that’s the main point and what my art has taught me so far. Anything good takes time…If it’s not difficult, it’s not fun.
What are some of your sources of inspiration?
My reading! I love novels. If you can’t find me painting at my studio, you will find me at the library or in bed with books. Romance and fantasy would be my first choices.
I love to paint something intimate. Some [of my] paintings have to do with magic and fairies. I love to paint the romance between a couple, human and God, human and nature, child and mother.
What coffee are you drinking right now?
Gayo coffee for sure.
Favorite coffee shop?
If you could drink coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
How did you know I have this kind of imagination? Okay, first I would want to have a caffeinated evening talk with Leonardo DiCaprio, not because he’s a great actor—okay, maybe yes—but having a conversation about environmental issues with him would be great! Second, Britney Spears, she‘s my favorite singer…and she loves coffee too—Strawberry Frappuccino! I guess I would have thousands of coffees with her while singing: “Hey Britney! Coffee baby one more 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.