What if Mona Lisa's smile was sparked by a few sips of espresso and Degas' dancers were fueled by cappuccinos? Artist Karen Eland is giving new meaning to the term “latte art” in her illustrations, which celebrate the caffeinated beverage as both the medium and the message: she creates reproductions of classic paintings using a mix of coffee and water, integrating a cup of joe (or a full carafe) into the imagery of every scene.
Eland's paired passions for coffee and creativity are both deeply steeped. At age 14, she took a portrait class that inspired her to pursue art as a profession, and she practiced drawing at New Orleans’ Kaldi’s Coffeehouse in the early years of her career. Every day, she would sip on a black coffee (with a sprinkle of nutmeg) while sketching portraits of her fellow French Quarter residents.
She eventually began wielding the drink as a material in 1998. She was living in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the time, and the rich tint of espresso at the local favorite Nordaggio's Coffee attracted her attention. Today, she's based in Bend, Oregon, where the high density of breweries has inspired her to begin painting with beer as well—but first, coffee, as they say. Get a taste of Eland's java-jolted masterpieces below.
Above: Mona Latte
Creation of Coffee
Girl with a Pearl Earring
Espresso to Gogh
Birth of the Coffee Break
Da Vinci's Barista
The Last Supper
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All images via Karen Eland.