Thank you for all the great questions! If you have any, please contact me and I’ll get right back to you.
Q: Do you do custom work to fit size and color requirements?
A: Yes! I work with designers and clients, consulting on what will be the most dramatic or interesting piece for them. The Coffee Art is great because the brown tones are classy and fit anywhere, and the colored work can be done to match elements of the room. Reach out through the contact link at the bottom right and let me know what you are looking for!
Q: How long have you been doing Artwork?
A: I have been drawing since age 3 – I started with Adam and Eve as far as I remember. I have sold art professionally since 2005, and have been working as an artist full time since 2010.
Q: Do you love coffee?
A: YES! Love is a good word for it. I have been in an “intimate relationship” with it for 10 years – experimenting with it, watching it develop over time, and getting great satisfaction out of it. Like real love, I have enjoyed how it does what it wants independent of my influence and how it’s natural outcome is so often more than I ever expected or could have done by myself.
Q: Is the Coffee Art work really just coffee?
A: It is only coffee. I get the effects I want through mixing different light and dark roasts and spooning them onto a Formica covered panel – like a counter top. After the stain dries, I use a fixative and a high quality resin to coat and seal it onto the Formica Panel.
Q: What kind of coffee do you use for art?
A: Many different kinds. Whatever I am drinking and tasting that I enjoy I experiment with. What kind do you like? I have probably used it. Learning more about coffee and it’s origins, I am particularly interested in the Ethiopian variety, as that is where Coffee is thought to originate from.
Q: How long do the Coffee Art works last?
A: All my work is made to last the test of time. I spent a lot of time in museums growing up, and that influenced me to always work and research materials that will stand up to a hundred years (or more). My original coffee works were done in 2004, and hang in New York Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Louisiana, and Texas. Once dried, fixed, and covered by resin, the coffee will last as long as any painting.
Q: How did you start using Coffee in your art?
A: I was teaching an art class to children as a volunteer in a community arts center, focusing on art fundamentals like composition, balance, and shading. I was focused one week on shading, from a light pencil stroke to a black line, and I was seeing shading everywhere. Someone had left a coffee stain on a counter top, and I bent over and stared at it for a long time, looking at the beautiful rich color and the perfect transition from light in the middle of the stain to a hard dark line along the edge.
I started by pouring coffee on glass, but it flaked off. I then moved to thick paper board and canvas. Finally, I came back to Formica, the material commonly used for kitchen counter tops. I loved how the coffee flowed over the surface, and I decided to stay with Formica.
Q: What is the best part of working with coffee?
A: There are three best parts: 1) It smells great in my studio, 2) It is natural and non-toxic. What is great about working with a natural material is allowing it to follow its natural course, and giving it the time to get to its own full potential. After doing all I can to help direct the form a piece takes, the coffee will do what it wants and I invariably come back to find it has change significantly. Always for the better. It is a delightful surprise every time. 3) The moment people realize it is not colored paint, and they are looking at real coffee, they become so excited! Many times I find nose marks on the pieces from people trying to smell it. Every nose mark to me is so fun, it means people are interacting with my art. To me, the nose marks are a badge of honor. I imagine a person with their face up against the piece breathing in that faint scent a piece has for a while, and it makes me really happy.
Q: Why Coffee as a medium?
A: Coffee has been a part of human life for many centuries, and has spread across the globe like wildfire. There are many different traditions, from telling one’s fortune in the grounds of Turkish coffee to the sweet Cuban shots. As I worked with it more, I learned more about how many cultures have a deep and rich tradition around coffee. It has been the fuel of innovative thought from Renaissance Salons to internet start-ups. I think about how connected we all are to it. All over the world we consume it daily. When I am working with it, I have a sense I am blessed to play with and shape into art something that so many people are so intimate with. We take it into our bodies, we put it in everything, we consume it in every situation. That is a special find as an artist, to create with a material that immediately connects with so many people. To have it be beautiful and rich in color, texture, and depth is a wonderful addition to that connection. Not only is it something we all share, but it is intrinsically beautiful as well.
Q: How is it done?
A: Some secrets I have to keep! I will say there is nothing out of the ordinary; my favorite spoon, mugs, and mixes of different coffees to get different light and dark shapes and transitions. Over the years, I have learned how to mix it to get interesting designs on the piece, but everything I use I can drink.
Q: How much are each piece?
A: There is a range. Reproductions range from $6 to $250 depending on size, and originals range from $450 to $4,000. The Aluminum reproductions range in size from 8″x8″ and 5″x7″ to 20″x20″ and 16″x30″, the originals range from about 2 foot squares up to 6 or 10 feet on a side.
If you are looking for something fun and inexpensive for gifts or for your desk, I have new coffee art mugs, mug coasters, and other cool coffee art items here: Shop
Q: How are the pieces hung?
A: All the pieces come ready to be hung with everything you need. The worst is getting a piece of art and having it sit against a wall because it is too complex to hang. All you need is a hammer or a screw driver, and you are in business. For any original piece, I suggest earthquake safe hangars, and any large piece should be hung by someone who knows how. An art investment falling from the wall is no fun at all.
Q: How many pieces are available?
A: Depending on what has sold and what is currently in a show, there are around 10 available at any time. Check the shop for available pieces.
Custom commissioned pieces are available as well, and take only a few weeks to complete. I will take a look at your space, and give you sample images on what will look good in your space for you to choose from. Recently, I worked with a couple who wanted something specific for a space in their kitchen, and it turned out wonderfully. Contact me here: www.mikelanni.com/contact/
Q: What is your biggest influence?
A: It is funny, I am mostly influenced by my education in psychology and business, and my work experience in high tech and the internet. I love architecture and the natural sciences, and I draw most of my inspiration from human interaction, science, and nature.A lot of my work is a science experiment, especially the coffee work. Systematically over time I have experimented and documented my results, which have gotten me to a place where I understand more about how coffee flows over Formica than even how paint flows over a canvas.
In the art world, the artists that influenced me are many, and it has never been my intention to study the who, rather I have always been more interested in the what, the why, and the implication of their art. When I look at my work today, I would say one of the biggest influences I can name is Jackson Pollack. At the time I started experimenting with coffee, ink, and paint in more unorthodox ways, I happened to watch the film made about his life. What struck me was that his instrumental breakthrough is really what set the stage for artists like myself to go beyond a brush and start allowing the materials themselves to dictate the work. I do not do paintings about coffee, I do mixed media abstract and representational work using coffee – allowing the coffee itself to naturally create the image it wants to (with a little help and direction from me). Pollack created work, like it or hate it, where the paint’s consistency, drying time, the wind pressure, and weight as it fell acted together with his hand to create the final image. Unlike most supposed “minimalist” painters and sculptors (where the hand of the artist is supposedly unseen), his work unveils the truth of their farce. By trying to be unseen they are more seen, where in Pollack’s work the artist is getting out of the way of nature, allowing for nature itself to create.
Currently, I am very interested in JR who, like Banksy, has found a way to move mountains with Art – to actually impact the social sphere we live in. I look at the Beatles for the same reason. Ultimately, those were artists and their medium was music, but the impact they had on worldwide conscious thought is profound and unending. As I dream about what projects I want to complete in this life, it that level I would like to one day hit.