Heard about coffee art? Meet Sushmita Viswanathan and Varsha Nagarajan who specialise in this genre

Meeting Sushmita Viswanathan and Varsha Nagarajan at a coffee shop is apt, considering they spend their weekends with sachets of coffee powder. No, they don't run a café. Their rustic paintings with colours ranging from monotonic shades of light sepia to dark-chocolate brown attract attention — they're all made out of coffee!

How it began

Childhood friends and now, software engineers, Sushmita and Varsha had always dreamt of doing something together. “It's not like we started with coffee. Oil, acrylics… we paint with almost any medium. In school, we would paint for friends and family and make gifts for occasions,” says Sushmita adding, “we wanted to do more but it didn't happen then. Now, we meet up on weekends to work on something together. Since coffee art isn't well-known here, we decided to specialise in the genre.”

Two years ago, the duo launched their brand Vartikaa as a hobby, showcasing different genres of painting, until they launched a coffee art art this year. “‘Vartikaa' in Sanskrit means ‘paintbrush' and it seemed to suit what we are doing. Under this label, we offer decorative solutions using any medium of art; Tanjore, oil, Worli, patachitra, etc. But coffee painting became our speciality. We improvised on a technique where we used multiple coatings of coffee to give our paintings an embossed look. When we introduced coffee art in April in one of our exhibitions, people found it unique and we immediately got orders,” says Varsha.

Using only coffee and water, these paintings have an almost antique finish, making them popular with the crowd. “Many customers want a personalised design and we need around three weeks to complete them,” she says, adding, “it takes only a day or two to do a painting, but the coffee takes two to three weeks to dry. And if the air is humid, it takes longer.”

Instant coffee is a better choice, say these 25-year-olds. “Filter coffee is granular and takes longer than usual to dry. Instant coffee, on the other hand, is powdery, sticky and easier to work with. The art is time-consuming since we have to prepare the canvas before painting with a special coating, and later get it properly framed without spoiling the coffee in any way. To make the painting durable, we give it a coat of varnish at the end. It's tough but it's so unique that it keeps us going,” says Sushmita.

Ganeshas and Buddhas are the local favourites, apart from tribal and rustic art. “The Ganeshas sell first. We also paint tribal subjects since people like human figures, besides abstracts,” says Sushmita, while Varsha adds, “The price usually depends on how big a painting is and how much detailing needs to be done. But we realise we still have a long way to go with coffee art and will continue to explore it.”

You can reach Vartikaa at http://vartikaa.wordpress.com