San Francisco Artist Turns Disposable Coffee Cups into Stunning Works of Art

We love all kinds of unusual art here at OC, and Miguel Cardona’s unique paper cups fit the bill perfectly. The San Francisco-based illustrator and professor of design takes ordinary coffee cups and transforms them into stunning collectibles. His doodles cover a range of subjects – from aliens to sea creatures, and even the face of Walter White (of Breaking Bad fame).

Cardona’s love affair with cups began last year, when he happened to visit a café near his workplace. The barista tied a napkin around a takeaway cup, and Cardona thought it looked like a scarf. So he quickly sketched a hipster around it. On subsequent cups the scarf became a doo-rag and then a Ninja Turtles’ mask.

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“I’m a total 15-year-old boy when it comes to my art sometimes,” Cardona said. “Mostly I like robots and skulls. I once read the story of a woman who had a baby squid growing in her gums and I could envision it so well, I had a mini series of portraits of folks who were suffering and fighting off tentacles from within their own mouths.”

“It sounds kind of morbid,” he admitted. “But to me it felt like a very fitting way to express a lot of what I was going through at that time.”

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Drawing on a cup is not an easy task, which is why Cardona loves the challenge and the respect it earns him as an artist. Tracing something from an underlying surface on to a paper cup is nearly impossible. So he basically draws everything freehand. It is difficult, he said, but also simple.

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“You have this three-dimensional object that is in your hands, you can pull the cup in a different direction and hold the pen still. You can also hide a lot of flawed perspective,” he said. And the best part: “You don’t need a desk, it can be done anywhere, and to protect it, you can stack it in another blank cup.” Cardona also loves the fact that the cup is a piece of art that can hold art supplies.

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The original coffee cup artworks can be purchased online, on Cardona’s website, where he also talks about the process behind the art. All of the proceeds from sales go to Project Night Night – to help donate blankets, toys and books to children in homeless shelters.

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