Like a lot of music listeners, a young British portrait artist thought pop star Taylor Swift was singing about Starbucks lovers in her song “Blank Space.”
The reality that Swift’s lyric says she’s “got a long list of ex-lovers,” didn’t deter Nathan Wyburn from painting her portrait using Starbucks coffee as a medium.
“Coffee works really well once you get used to the consistency,” Wyburn said. “When it dries it still looks wet and has that beautiful glossy look. I used espresso coffee and thickened some of it up by adding more ground coffee beans.”
The unorthodox style for creating portraits has become second nature for Wyburn who simply describes his collection of work as “food art.” The unusual style has a connection to Simon Cowell, a London TV and record producer best known in the U.S. as a talent judge on “American Idol.”
“I stumbled across a newspaper headline about Simon Cowell that read ‘Love Him or Hate him,’” recalled Wyburn. “That being the slogan for Marmite, (a sticky, dark brown food paste with a salty flavor) I decided to spread his portrait on a canvas of toast using Marmite.”
A positive reaction lead to several media interviews for Wyburn and eventually an appearance on “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2011. Since then the 24-year-old foodie artist has made a portrait of Britney Spears using peanut butter and jelly, styled a Katy Perry headshot out of cat food and a likeness of model Twiggy composed with cracker crumbs.
“To me it’s just great fun,” he said. “People seem to enjoy the humor that’s often at the forefront of my work.”
For his portrait of Taylor Swift, Wyburn dipped an artist’s brush in a small puddle of Starbucks coffee and began painting her eyes on an 11 x 14 white canvas. Three hours later, he completed the portrait with flowing strokes of coffee to highlight her hair.
He found Starbucks coffee easier to use as a medium than other food products, and said the “beauty of coffee” is that the end result isn’t perishable. His other portraits made with fruits or vegetables have to be discarded after they’re photographed and made into prints for exhibition. That is symbolic said Wyburn, because “it can be argued that public figures are intended for mass consumption.”