The logical left side of the brain and the creative right side sometimes fight for dominance in our personalities. But, for artist and teacher Andrew Wilkie, it seems the sides of his brain have found a happy medium.
An anatomy, physiology and biology teacher at Atascadero High School, Wilkie has always loved coffee. After living in Costa Rica for a few years with his family, he considers himself a “coffee snob.”
A pre-cancerous skin treatment left Wilkie stuck inside his home in Morro Bay for a week last July, but being cooped up gave him a new reason to love the fragrant beans. As Wilkie worked on a black and white painting while cup after cup of coffee, an idea sparked: maybe he could use the coffee beans in his art.
“I’d seen some sand art before and basically thought, ‘Well, why not coffee grounds?’” Wilkie said. “It’s a unique art form because there’s the visual aspect, texture and smell.”
Wilkie made his first piece, a heartbeat through a treble clef titled “Coffee Makes My Heart Sing.” Wilkie had no intention of selling his work until a former student asked to buy the piece hanging in his classroom. His wife encouraged him to enter Avila Art on the Beach, an art show that takes place every Sunday. The show helped Wilkie realize that people had real interest in his work.
“I really did not expect this to take off, but people really took interest in it,” he said.
Wilkie takes photographs and transforms them into coffee creations. He started creating landscapes, close-up portrayals of objects and even people, as seen in his favorite piece hanging in Bello Mundo Cafe in downtown San Luis Obispo of a man walking down train tracks.
“I feel like I’m very pensive in life, like this guy walking on the tracks; I feel like that’s me,” Wilkie said. “Just walking, thinking about life.”
Blackhorse Espresso and Bakery, Atascadero Brew and Kreuzberg Coffee Company in Paso Robles all display Wilkie’s artwork on their walls. Once his work was publicly displayed, people started commissioning Wilkie for his pieces. With all of this exposure, Wilkie found himself a very busy man.
“My wife is awfully gracious and my sons are all older, but I have an awesome daughter named Sophie who is six now,” Wilkie said. “We’re not going out with friends all the time, so I have a lot of time at night again now, or in the summer as a teacher.”
Wilkie roasts together French roast beans and adhesive to create these caffeinated masterpieces, each taking around 12 hours to make. He said sometimes he’ll throw in a bean of kopi luwak, the most expensive coffee in the world, just to say the piece contains it.
Wilkie normally sells his art for anywhere from $150 to $400 and makes about two sales per week.
The future promises more dynamic pieces from Wilkie. He started to toy with a 3-D look for certain designs and said he hopes to explore this further in the future.
“Right now I’m in a wine phase, but I would love to do more animals as well,” Wilkie said. “I’ve had people contact me from all over the world.”