When I catch Mariya Suzuki at the “Drawing to Go” event at FabCafe, things are just getting started. People are huddled around small tables drinking Onibus blend lattes, and iced coffees courtesy of Light Up Coffee and Amameria Espresso. There’s a quiet buzz in the air—a mix of careful sketching, friendly banter, and pens everywhere. Each person is focused on something in the room—an object, location, or person—to express on simple to-go coffee cups.
Suzuki’s own panoramic pieces and simple portraits are the inspiration for the event—centered around connecting people through drawings on coffee cups—and I was curious to learn more about it.
Suzuki says she’s always drawn the everyday world around her—the buildings, the landscapes, and the people that inhabit it. It comes naturally to her, and it’s what she most enjoys. Her quiet nature seems drawn to express these scenes through her art—pen drawings of free-flowing lines and a colorful lightness.
She says the coffee cups started in 2008, when she was in school. She says she went to coffee shops with her friends, and noticed the cup sometimes seemed like a blank canvas. Probably she forgot her sketchbook one day, or something like that, so she just drew on the cup. It was sporadic, but the habit followed her to America for college, and back home when she started work in Japan.
I mention what I like about the idea, that by combining two ordinary things—coffee cups and slices of the everyday—in a creative way, you create fresh perspective. It’s the world around you, in a way you’ve never considered. It’s a beauty that’s always been there, but perhaps you needed a cup of coffee and a dash of creativity to really notice it.
There’s a shrug in her eyes. “I guess so?” she says.
“I like the mundane, and the everyday,” she continues. “And coffee is as everyday as it gets, right? I drink it every day, and it’s an important part of my life. I don’t know,” she adds pensively. “I see drama in the everyday…when you see it as an art form, you have to look at it. The art makes you notice it, and you find comfort in that.”
She thinks for a moment, and a hint of doubt flashes across her eyes. “Maybe…?” she says, laughing, “At least, that’s my guess.”
It’s a simple idea, at heart—coffee brings Suzuki in touch with the world and with friends. It’s a conduit for creativity and communication. To hear her tell it, it feels natural to draw on cups, and she wanted to share the experience—it’s easy to do, the canvas is right there, and above all, it’s fun.
As I look around at people drawing, chatting, and drinking coffee, I get a clearer picture of it. It’s a group that might never have crossed paths without this. And none of it could have started without that first cup of coffee, in that everyday paper cup. There’s a friendly, warm, repetitive cycle at play—coffee, communication, creativity. Coffee, communication, creativity. And on and on.
And I love that. I love that coffee and art can bring together a diverse mix of personalities and styles, and welcome all of them. It’s a marriage of coffee, design, and simple fun—you don’t have to drink coffee to draw, and you don’t have to draw to have fun; everyone finds a comfortable middle ground through which to experience something new. The hidden bonus, then, is the specialty coffee discovered as a part of it.
Looking at the cups that line the counter, I realize there really is a beauty in the everyday we tend to forget. Beautiful scenery passes us by, and art exists all around us—in the places we see, and the things we do, every day. There’s wonder in the cups we drink from every morning, too.
So if you find yourself with an empty cup of coffee and a couple of pens, you might try drawing what you see. The act invites you to take a closer look at the world. And hopefully, creating something around your paper cup will give you pause to consider the beverage that existed inside of it—and the people that prepared it so you might enjoy it.