Coffee Talk

Writings by Edward Patrick Kranz (Ezju) about fine art created with coffee. You will find detailed information on Ezju’s works created at No Such Animal Studios and information about other artists who use coffee as a medium.

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Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Waiter! There’s a Fish in My Coffee

Marion Schlegel is a remarkable woman with a rich history, good friends, and a very refreshing approach to painting. On top of all that is the fact that she teaches a technique using coffee as an artistic medium to paint fish of all things.

Her technique? One I haven’t tried yet, instant coffee. She takes a cup of instant coffee and adds approximately 1-2 Tbsp. of hot water to thicken it to a past. On 140 lbs. watercolor paper Marion fixes a sheet of tissue paper using Uhu glue, keeping about 1” away from the edges. An option is to “scamble” up the tissue paper before adhering with the glue. The Uhu also gives a nice effect through the coffee. Marion then wets everything with a baking brush. She paints a fish in coffee, with regular watercolor brushes. Finally she’ll add a bit of watercolor around it with a big chin brush. Marion will often let it dry a bit and paint over it again with the coffee for darker effects.

The effect is a very light hearted and polished work of art.

While Marion’s technique is a definite must in the need-to-try category I’m even more impressed with the life that created this very light hearted and polished artist and teacher. I’ve read books on artist lives, seen movies about them, even lived an artist’s life myself and Marion’s story fits in to a tee.

Currently she is a 58 year old woman living in Terrace, British Columbia. She teaches her art style called Aqua Tinta and dreams of visiting Rome and taking in the masters first hand. Marion has very good friends watching out for her. Sounds common until you consider she has had two brain Aneurysms which almost killed her in 2004. Her short-term memory has been impaired but she can still paint.

Let’s backtrack a few years to Germany circa 1950 give or take a few years. Marion enjoyed art throughout her childhood. While she was in boarding school she had almost daily “private” lessons by an elderly nun, who encouraged Marion to be curious and creative. “I remember those afternoon hours as being peaceful and a lot of fun.”

As a new bride, Marion moved to Hamburg, Germany and became a student as well as a member of Helmut Klein’s Studio 70. During this time she worked in oil, pencil and charcoal.

Studio 70 was famous in Hamburg’s art scene and Klein was an accomplished Graphic Designer with clients including Colgate, Palmolive, Phillips and Beiersdorf. Klein was also well known for an invention known as Peg art (Parvus Experimental Graphic). As a student of Klein’s, Marion copied old masters like Rembrandt, Ruebens, and Duerer. It was during this time that she learned about “conservative” art.

The year was 1976 and Marion began instruction under another well known artist and architect in Hamburg, Ulrich Von Bock. Her education took a dramatically different direction from the teachings of Klein.

Watercolor was the medium and freedom and experimentation were the instructions. Marion and the other students did a lot of “homework.” Ulrich Von Bock discouraged his students from merely copying and introduced them to the abstract. “It was scary at times, but always a lot of fun.”

Marion and the other students had their first show in January of 1979 along with other students from the Free Academy of Arts, Hamburg. The president of the Academy opened the show and was quite impressed by Von Bock’s student’s work. The body of work displayed started out as an experimental project designed by Von Bock who taught Marion for another year.

It was time for Marion and 3 of the other students to break away and start painting on a regular basis as a group. With advice, support, and encouragement by Ulrich Von Bock Marion and her fellow artists founded Aqua Tinta.

Courage was built up and Aqua Tinta dove into the world of Art shows on their own. They were met with quite a bit of success and recognition from the local press. In 1982 Aqua Tinta had their largest Art show in Alstertal (Hamburg North) with about 80 paintings.

Life happened and Aqua Tinta was divided. “Today, Anke works mainly with Photography, Renate died, Kirsi is carrying on the technique we “inherited” in Hamburg North. She is still working in her own gallery and teaching our “Aqua Tinta” technique. Kirsi has published two small books.”

In 1982 Marion continued with shows at the Art Gallery in Terrace, British Columbia, teaching there as well as in the Emily Carr Studio at the college.

Continuing to teach Marion teaches her technique to a 4th grade class at Veritas School. Even though the process was exhausting for her Marion knew the children had a lot of fun. I’ve taught groups of children at Wedgwood Montessori where my daughter attended and know how exhausting and rewarding the experience can be. My hat’s off to Marion.

From one extreme to another, Marion has also taught Alzheimer patients at a local care center. “One 82 year old lady sold her painting for $100.00 at a local coffee shop!!! She did not know she could do this!”

Marion’s students have improvised on her technique. Freda Diensing, famous for her native art and recipient of a national art award, ripped out the tissue paper in the form of a fish (Killer whale) and then glued the fish on the watercolor paper, then painted it. “It looks wonderful!”

In correspondence Marion has reminisced; “It is so funny so, when we lived in Hamburg, Germany, I never wanted to go to Rome. It would have been just a 7 hour drive or so. Now I want to see his (Michelangelo’s) art. But in Germany we have many galleries to go to and study famous paintings. We have a lot of Michelangelo’s copies around too.” Something in common, we would both like to go to Rome someday and experience the art first hand.

Something else I would like to see is more of Marion’s art. In time Marion plans to have a Website up. For now she has created a Facebook profile so you can get to know this remarkable woman and her work as she posts it. I’ll keep you updated as her Web presence grows. In the mean time drop her a line and let her know what you think about her coffee fish!

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