This month we are proud to announce our first in a series of Artists collaborations. From the beginning the idea behind Black Top Society was to bring artisans together, from every walk of life. Years ago we hosted a few group art shows in Pomona, one was a motorcycle inspired art show and the other a Kraken inspired art show. Today, as we continue to bring together like minded people, we are introducing our first artist, Paul Contreras. We had a chance to talk to Paul, the man behind some amazing coffee inspired art.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Central California, The Central Valley, surrounded by farmland and agriculture. Being in the Central California area I was only a few hours drive from both big cities like San Francisco as well as Los angeles.
What effect did your neighborhood(s) have on your upbringing, if any haha? I grew up moving around a lot so each area taught me a little bit about people, and life in general.
Well most of the cities I grew up in are quite small, so they had a very laid back quiet vibe to them, and that’s what I like about this place, and I believe that why I moved back after graduating art school, I’m a laid back person who just likes the slow pace, the big city was a little too fast paced for me haha!
Growing up, was art always a part of your daily routine or did it come into play later in life?
From early on I was always been surrounded by art, my dad being an artist was always airbrushing or pinstriping, so as i got older I was always by his side learning and watching him lay down some killer graphics on cars or motorcycles.
Are you self-taught or do you have some type schooling/degree in art?
I would have to say I’m a little of both, I was always drawing and painting when I was in grade and high school, But once I decided i wanted to pursue a career in the arts I decided to go to art school to hone my skills and learn techniques and the skills needed to better my artwork and eventually find my own style.
You do some amazing work, its simplicity makes it easy to appreciate. Is watercolor your weapon of choice?? Do you ever use other mediums?
I always say simple is better, but keeping it simple is actually the hard part because I always want to add or change a piece and sometimes need to remind myself to just keep it simple don’t overdo it. I have worked in other mediums but I was definitely drawn back to watercolor, it’s quite forgiving and it can be manipulated in such a cool way that that is how I kind of fell into my style, just by experimenting with different techniques. But i definitely love the simplicity of my work, I think people respond well to the style.
I’m not sure if this is true for everyone but for me coffee has always been a part of my life. I have tons of fond memories that revolve around coffee to some degree. Was there a significant moment, event that changed your outlook on coffee? That moment you felt it was more than just a daily habit?
I also have fond memories tied to coffee, my grandma actually introduced me to it back in grade school. It was a morning ritual for her and my grandpa, and she always had to have at least 3 cups in the morning. Once I got old enough to appreciate its qualities and effect on the body I was hooked! haha! But after my grandma passed it definitely held a special place in my heart and in a way keeps me close to her as well as the good times we had chatting over a good cup of coffee. I realized it was more than just a daily habit when I started working for starbucks, i would just sit back and watch people meet up and chat while sipping on a latte or ice coffee, and it felt good to know that people come together just enjoy a cup of coffee and have a good time.
At what point did you feel you needed to incorporate coffee into your art, and how long have you been using coffee as your subject matter?
Once I started to see the response to my early coffee inspired work is when i realized I might have something here. I don’t see many artists relying on coffee as their whole subject matter. I also noticed that the Coffee industry is definitely booming right now and seems to be getting stronger, So I believe my work will definitely relate to a lot of people, especially all the coffee drinkers out there. Because afterall who doesn’t love coffee?!
What comes next? I feel there’s a natural progression that leads people from one thing to the next. Have you started seeing a new path out of what you’re doing now?
I’m honestly just going with the flow, I’ve been getting a lot of response from coffee shops as well as small business owners such as yourself, who like my work and either want custom work or to own some of my work. I eventually would like to grow my business and my brand and maybe even open up some sort of coffee shop of my own as to sell good coffee as well as my merch and artwork.
Last but not least, what’s your stance? Black or Sugared? And why?
It all depends on the roast of the coffee, lighter roasts I tend to drink black with some light sugar, especially iced coffees and cold brew. but darker roasts I’ll add some cream and sugar.