(Photo: courtesy of Gudberg Nerger.)
The human brain (maybe all animal brains) are wired to see faces, and we often see them where they don’t exist. Put two circles and a line near each other and we’ll make it a face. That’s why most of us see a face when we look at cars, trains, phones, and these two pieces of punctuation : ). For a few, this impulse is hyperactive, and faces appear where most of us see just, say, a bit of spilled coffee.
Many artists have used coffee or tea as a medium, most often using concentrates as paint or stains, but none has produced something as distinctive and charming as Stefan Kuhnigk, an artist from Hamburg, Germany. His Coffee Monsters project began in 2011 when he saw a coffee stain on a paper at his office. With a pen, he created a creature with a few strokes of ink. The goofy, rolly, squiggly thing captured Kuhnigk’s fancy. The first monster went on Instagram. More than 500 followed.
Not only are the drawings irresistibly delightful, they are a premier representation of café art: compelling, highly skilled, informal, and complementary to coffee. Outside of the type of coffeehouse that has over-sterilized corporate branding, it’s hard to imagine a shop Kuhnigk’s drawings wouldn’t fit perfectly.
The best 100 monsters are now collected in the Coffeemonsters Book, and it would certainly be a wonderful addition to any café’s coffee table. Published in Europe by Gudberg Nerger, the book is available on Kuhnigk’s website, thecoffeemonsters.com.
—Cory Eldridge is Fresh Cup‘s editor.