ASHTABULA, Ohio — In this small lakeside town about 50 miles east of Cleveland, artist Alyssa Ennis is in the kitchen starting her morning like many people do: making coffee. Her home in Ashtabula has a modern farmhouse feel. The kitchen where she works is dominated by a large island, and to the side is a table with Edison-style lights hanging overhead that give the whole thing a warm glow.
Ennis is meticulous, someone who has an eye for detail and who likes everything to be as perfect as possible. Coffee is no different. Some days she starts the day with regular beans. The other days, espresso. Exact measurements, she grinds the beans and adds the grounds to a shallow pan of water on the stove. From there, she whittles it down to a concentrate. Once it reaches the right color and consistency, she pours it into a bowl and enjoys the fragrant aroma swirling through the kitchen.
Now Ennis is ready to start her day. She sits on the island and grabs a sheet of paper. The care and effort she put into brewing this particular batch of java would make a barista proud, but instead of a sip, it’s a dunk, as he carefully selects his first brush and dunks it.
Ennis is an artist who specializes in creating paintings with coffee.
A strong support system
While she has only been painting with coffee for a year and a half, her interest in painting dates back to her childhood.
“My dad did a coffee painting a long time ago, when I was probably in elementary school. When he brought it home, I thought it was something cool. I didn’t know you could use coffee. It’s kinda stuck with me ever since,” she said.
Beyond that, coffee has always been an important part of his life. Growing up in Ashtabula, Ennis has fond memories of visiting the local cafe, Harbor Perk. She went there to spend time with her family and friends.
“It’s a special place for me,” she said. “And that’s why I wanted to use them for different local locations.”
Ennis gets her favorite beverages here as well as the beans she brews for her coffee creations. Every painting she has done with coffee has used beans purchased from this store.
His original inspiration, his father Denny, said his art came from within.
“She has a good eye. She learned on her own. Yeah, she had lessons at school like everyone else. I think she might have had an art lesson or maybe two and that’s it. Other than that, she just did it on her own,” Denny said.
And while Alyssa’s dad’s original cafe painting may have been an inspiration to her, he said his talent overshadows anything he does with it.
“Mine was pretty primitive, you know, by comparison,” he said. “I’m very proud of her. And, you know, we’ve always been very close.
“She’s just beautiful inside and out. I mean, her personality, her passion is a big thing. She cares so much about her family. She cares about her city. She cares about the region .”
Paintings that feel like home
The joy of painting is twofold for Ennis. One of the reasons she does this is the creative process itself. She paints for fun. The other part is showing someone something they may not have seen before.
“I just want people to experience it if they haven’t been there. Or maybe they’ve seen the place a hundred times and it gives them a new view of this area” , she said. “If I can create something meaningful for someone, that’s also the most important thing. That’s my main goal. I love it. I would create art whether people see it or not. . It’s just a part of me. I love it, everything about it.”
Currently, Ennis has done several coffee paintings in the series which she hopes to continue. She started with the Ashtabula Lighthouse, then painted the city’s lift bridge.
She has since done the Guardians of Traffic and is finishing her play Playhouse Square. Something about seeing them all done in the nostalgic hues of brown seems to capture their essence.
The secret to his coffee art is that it all starts outside, away from his kitchen. She enjoys photographing everything from the natural beauty that Ohio has to offer to the architecture of Cleveland and other cities. She uses the reference photographs she takes as a starting point for her paintings.
Then she will take her photo and draw the design. She also imports her photographs into editing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop and converts the photo to a sepia tone to get an idea of the values she will need to concoct her brew.
And then it’s coffee time.
While other artists use things like charcoal, graphite, oils or acrylics, Ennis says coffee gives him the opportunity to create his own medium.
“I like coffee because it has a sepia or antique look to it. It’s monochromatic, so you kind of have different coffee tones in the paint, and you can use it dark or light,” he said. she declared.
She prepares her coffee in small quantities for each painting.
“When I cook it on the stove it will have a nice, concentrated consistency, and that’s when it will be at its darkest. And then, as I add a little water at a time, it becomes a lighter value, so it becomes a lot of variation in the parts,” Ennis said.
She experiments with different types of beans, generally leaning towards espresso and dark roast. Once the coffee has cooled, she uses it like any other type of paint, adjusting the strength and color as she works.
“People are usually quite surprised because no one knows much about coffee paintings,” she said. “There aren’t many people I’ve seen do it before. Usually when I explain it to people, they’re interested but don’t know what to expect. Then when I show it, they’re quite excited.
His coffee paintings take an average of around 100 hours to complete.
A shared love of art
As a child, Alyssa’s father, Denny Parker, had a carpentry shop where he worked on different projects. “While he was working he had a little pull-out desk that he let me draw on. I always thought that was the best thing to do growing up, like it was really fun for me,” a- she declared.
From elementary school, she will work side by side with her father, him, on wood carvings or other projects, while she works on his drawings.
“I think my dad is proud. He was supportive of me. I’m lucky to have a good support system,” she said.
The love of creation was something they both shared.
Denny said Alyssa started hanging out in the carpentry shop when she was 5 or 6 years old.
“I made her a little desk in the corner. She used to draw pictures and stuff, then as I got a little older I worked with her a little bit carving wood. She would carve little animals and then she’d paint them,” he said.
Alyssa said her dad is a reason she’s an artist to this day. Working on these early projects helped her develop her creative mind at a young age.
“It’s always been part of what I do, what I love. It’s something we definitely share together. We always work on things together too, which is really fun. We have a great time to do it,” she said. “My dad absolutely inspired me from a very young age. He is very talented, although he may not say it himself, but he definitely inspires me in the field of art. is a beautiful gift.”
Starting a Business
While still an accountant, Ennis took steps to become a full-time artist. In anticipation of this eventuality, she created Alyssa Ennis Art LLC in early April.
“I’ve been planning for it for a while. I just decided I wanted to go. I’m excited,” she said.
She also created a website to showcase her talents.
Apart from that, Ennis is active on social media. She uses her Instagram account to not only show off her finished pieces, but also to give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the entire process from start to finish.
Using Instagram Reels, Ennis shows the viewer the start-to-finish look of the paintings and the inspiration behind each piece by bringing the painting back to the scene.
Ennis is able to take the viewer with her and really make them feel part of the process.
“I think you get a whole different perspective when you see it through someone else’s eyes, so I want people to experience the place,” she said.
From the kitchen of his home in Ashtabula, Ennis is once again focusing on adding the finishing touches to his most recent painting of Playhouse Square. With a brush in hand and a smile on her face, she reaches across the island to the small bowl of coffee, dips the brush in, and makes the final strokes on the last piece of blank canvas.
CLICK HERE for more information about Ennis, his art and his website.
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