Austin Kleon, a writer/artist based in Austin, TX, uses tea to create sketches that jump- start his creative juices.
“Tea is for when I want to smoothly sail through the day,” he said (e-mail, July 14, 2009). “Coffee is for when I want to hack through the jungle.”
On the mornings that Kleon opts for tea, he waits until his cup of tea has brewed, and then drops the tea bag on an index card, which produces an unexpected variety of blobs, blurs, and smears. He then hunts for images in the tea stains and creates sketches using a black Sharpie® felt pen. He got the idea from a fellow writer/artist, who got the idea from Dave Gray, the founder of the consulting and design firm XPLANE.
“I really love the color, honestly,” said Kleon. “And it lends a kind of earthy, organic feel to line drawings.”
Many of Kleon’s tea sketches end up depicting light-hearted scenes, such as a “fat kid dancing,” or another with people floating away in hot air balloons. Sometimes he will incorporate a process he learned from another artist’s blog, which involves dividing the piece of paper or note card into a grid of panels, which he then uses to creative cartoon narratives.
“Not-knowing what image will show up is part of the game,” said Kleon. “You get to let your subconscious take over. It’s like a Rorschach inkblot test. You could show the tea stain to 100 different people, and they’d see 100 different images.”