Caffeinated art on display in downtown Kent

  • BY Wire Service
  • Thursday, November 13, 2008 9:45pm
  • News
Leslie Armstrong holds a painting she did entirely with coffee as a tribute to Paul Newman. It depicts Newman in his role as Butch alongside Robert Redford in the movie

Leslie Armstrong holds a painting she did entirely with coffee as a tribute to Paul Newman. It depicts Newman in his role as Butch alongside Robert Redford in the movie

Leslie Armstrong prefers her coffee with a paint brush.

Armstrong, an arts teacher at Kentwood High School, uses coffee to paint portraits.

Armstrong’s works, as well as those of painter Debbie Gronholz and photographer Joanne Montzingo, will be displayed through Nov. 30 on the walls at the Bittersweet Restaurant, 211 First Ave. S. in downtown Kent.

The Kent artists and friends call their show, “Two Paint Brushes, Coffee and a Camera.” The show officially opened Nov. 7 with a no-host dinner and performances by Kentwood music students.

Armstrong first experimented with painting with coffee about two years ago after attending an arts-educator workshop where the instructor used teas, inks and other stains.

“I had my coffee with me and I played with it,” Armstrong said during an interview last week at the Bittersweet Restaurant. “It’s more sculpturing than drawing or painting.”

Armstrong paints the coffee paintings in layers, letting one layer dry before she starts the next layer. She uses espresso for the darker colors.

When setting up for the show last week, Armstrong unveiled a portrait of Paul Newman and Robert Redford from the movie, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

Many of Armstrong’s portraits are of coffee farmers and their families. She wants the paintings to help raise awareness of the plight of Latin American coffee farmers.

“I’m trying to put a positive image on the families who make coffee and change the world one cup at a time,” Armstrong said.

The images of Armstrong’s portraits are being used by the Camano Island Coffee Roasters company as wrappers for chocolate bars that the company will sell to help raise money for coffee farmers and their children. The bars will sold at the show, but Armstrong isn’t selling her coffee paintings, yet.

“This collection still has a job to do before it’s sold,” Armstrong said of her efforts to tell about the plight of coffee farmers. She also suggested the Web site,, as a place for people to learn more about how to help coffee farmers.

Gronholz, who teaches photography at Kentwood, has several floral paintings on display that are for sale. Gronholz painted greeting cards for several years for Madison Park Greetings of Seattle.

“I love the colors and painting is like an adventure — it either turns out or not,” Gronholz said. “I love the colors and the blending and the creating.”

Montzingo, who teaches nutrition classes at Valley Medical Center in Renton and Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue, started to take photography seriously about five years ago. Montzingo is the wife of Kentwood health teacher Dean Montzingo, the former boys basketball coach for the Conquerors.

“I like to be in regular situations and isolate certain characteristics of where I am,” Montzingo said of her technique.

Montzingo’s photos on display include a close-up shot of farmers’ hands, as well as pictures of tomatoes and other vegetables at a farmers market in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Bittersweet Restaurant is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

If you go

• “Two Paint Brushes, Coffee and a Camera.”

• Through Nov. 30.

• Bittersweet Restaurant, 211 First Ave. S.

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