Press Kit

Instagram: @michael_aaron_williams


A native to East Tennessee, Michael Aaron Williams is best known for his ethereal portraiture. These paintings are created using coffee and ink on antique ledger paper to capture the ephemeral nature of people and society. The ledger paper comes from an old, rural Appalachian store owned by his great-great-grandparents in the early 1900s. The fragile nature of the ledger paper mirrors the often fractured portraits that depict beauty despite their imperfections. In a similar context, Michael’s street art is a narrative of the people whose lives are lived on the streets. As an avid street artist since 2009, Michael has installed his work on the streets of over 15 different countries. Through television features and magazine publications, he has received international recognition in Brazil, Australia, China, India, Germany and the United Kingdom, amongst others. His work has been exhibited extensively both domestically in the United States as well as internationally with shows in Los Angeles, Paris and Rome, to name a few. Michael holds a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and recently received his Master of Fine Arts from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.


These videos show the process of making the work from start to finish:

As you can see, the coffee is applied in a very similar way to that of watercolor painting. The ink is used only for the darkest darks and is used sparingly.


The Paper

The paper I use for my coffee paintings is actually ledgers from the late 1800s and early 1900s. My art focuses on connecting with people and I think relics of the past assist in drawing the viewer in. They contain so much history. A lot of my work focuses on the ephemerality of people and culture, and I think the paper reflects our own history through those that have come before us. When reading the ledgers you are peering into the daily lives of people long past. Since these ledgers are from my great great grandparents’ store, I feel like I am personally connecting with them through these artworks.


Through experimentation I found that the best paint to use for working on antique paper wasn’t paint at all, but strongly brewed coffee. The coffee just melted into the history of the paper in a way that paint could not.