Expressions in Espresso — The Coffee Art, and More, of Paul Henderson

Dawn's Jade Glow by Paul Henderson, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery.
Dawn’s Jade Glow by Paul Henderson, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery.

Very few of us, after watching a movie, embark upon a yearlong project of intense and highly disciplined creativity, but fine artist Paul Henderson of Yakima, WA, finds insight in uncommon places.

“My artistic interests are wide and varied,” the painter says. “I love the Northwest wilderness and wildlife, but I also enjoy world history, cultures, and geography; therefore I call myself the ‘Northwest Artist with an International Touch.'”

Coffee is the medium of choice in Paul Henderson's Coffee Capital, Seattle painting.
Coffee is the medium of choice in Paul Henderson’s Coffee Capital, Seattle painting.

Inspired by the film “Julie and Julia,” in which blogger Julie Powell challenges herself to cook, within one year, all 524 recipes in famed chef Julia Child’s first book, Henderson embarked upon his “Modern and Experimental Series,” with the intent of creating two paintings per week for 52 weeks.

The spirit of the project never stopped, and while Henderson fell just short of 104 paintings (he completed 90), he continued the challenge, and in the five years since then has been finessing the sheer art of experimentation:

“I decided to not limit myself to detail but to do any style or subject from abstract to detail, to fantasy, to loose style, and to just experiment,” Henderson says.

“This has literally set my creative juices on fire, and I will continue even more creative techniques and mixed media. I love to try different methods; it keeps me fresh and invigorated.”

Color Storm by Paul Henderson, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery.
Color Storm by Paul Henderson, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery.

Some of those methods involve fiberglass taping mesh, highly textured papers, netting, plastic, or styrofoam from packing boxes which Henderson attaches to the canvas, conveying a 3-D effect to a two-dimensional substrate. Another innovation revolves around something most of us have in our kitchen cupboards — coffee — to give new perspective upon the medium of watercolor.

“In 1986, after my then five-year-old daughter accidentally splashed coffee over one of my sketches, voila! Espresso art was born,” Henderson remembers. “At that time, I became known as the ‘original fine art coffee painter,’ and my story appeared in newspapers and TV all around the Northwest.”

Planetory by Paul Henderson, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery.
Planetory by Paul Henderson, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery.

Henderson’s coffee paintings — which use both regular and decaf, and whatever brand of coffee he happens to be drinking at that time — remain consistently popular, capturing Americana themes including both wildlife and western. He has shown at grand openings of many Nordstrom coffee bars as well as at Starbucks, and he offers both originals and prints through his studio and at local coffee bars.

Henderson’s philosophy of art, in short, can be expressed in one simple sentence:

Don’t limit yourself.

“I’ve drawn since I could walk,” Henderson says, “and I’ve been painting for 42 years.”

With a skill repertoire that ranges from highly detailed, almost photo-representational wildlife to dreamily hued abstract, Henderson is not circumscribed by any subject matter, and not only does he create Native American art as well as planetary fantasy, he also incorporates the two. In the same manner, his floral and landscape representational works dance in a background of abstract. It is all part of the spirit of exploration and adventure, an insistence upon not being boxed in, nor expecting his viewer to be so.

Forest Glow by Paul Henderson, Wenaha Gallery guest artist.
Forest Glow by Paul Henderson, Wenaha Gallery guest artist.

“I am free to create anything, to experiment and have fun along with the learning,” Henderson explains. “Art really comes from within the artist and expresses it in the physical.”

Henderson has exhibited in shows and galleries throughout the west, including Reno, Nevada, Hawaii, and California, and at one point was contacted by a gallery in Hawaii asking if he would paint a falcon to be presented at a private showing for the king of Saudi Arabia.

Autumn Glow by Paul Henderson, Wenaha Gallery guest artist.
Autumn Glow by Paul Henderson, Wenaha Gallery guest artist.

He has studied under Don Crook, affectionately known as the “Rockwell of Western Art,” and attended workshops by pastel and portraiture artist Daniel Green. His learning, his creating, his innovation and research — including classes on animal anatomy and taxidermy to give him a better understanding of his subject matter — have revolved around a schedule that involves full-time employment in a different arena than art. After hours, it’s time to create.

“My studio is in my home — I use one bedroom, half of the family room, and store in the garage — I also blitz on large projects in the garage where I take the cars out and go at it.”

There is a reason that the movie, “Julie and Julia,” resonated so much with Henderson — he really does approach life with an international flair.

Wenaha GalleryPaul Henderson is the featured artist at Wenaha Gallery’s Art Event from Saturday, April 4 through Saturday May 2, at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA. There is an artist’s reception April 4, from 1-4 p.m. Free refreshments will be served, and Paul plans to create one of his coffee paintings during the reception.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

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