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Speaking as someone who once spilled an entire mocha latte down the front of my shirt 15 minutes before I was due to speak before a workshop group, I can vouch for the staining power of coffee. But it’s that very characteristic that makes coffee a terrific alternative painting medium — it stains white paper with a gorgeous (and delightfully aromatic) brown tone similar to a watercolor wash. This page in my 2008 sketchbook is painted and lettered with three varieties of my favorite beverage:

Paper Prep Coffee Girl2I love drawing and painting on stained paper, with its raw warmth and sometimes-bark-sometimes-leather texture. We used earth-based acrylic pigment to stain sheets of watercolor paper in my recent North Carolina workshop. Dogwoods were blooming in the mountain coves, so we drew them in layered colored pencil and charcoal:

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This week, I’m staining lots of paper in front of a video camera in preparation for the upcoming Botanical Sketchbook Painting course. The best part is the fact that you never get the same result twice — each sheet is uniquely smudged and pocked, each with its own rustic beauty. The second best part is the fact that… well… someone has to drink all that leftover coffee.