Star Wars and Coffee Paintings: Artist Interview with Darryll Jones

by Cass Art

Darryll Jones is a conceptual artist. A photographer, painter, food photographer and story-teller, he is most well-known for his narrative images of Star Wars characters, for whom he imagines new, alternative lives. With the arrival of the new film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and due to his witty captions and brilliantly shot photographs, Darryll has acquired quite the following.

Stormtroopers and Darth Vader aside, we wanted to find out about Darryll's mixed media process, from the inspiration behind his photographs and his discovery of painting with coffee. Read on to find out more about his work.

Hi Darryll! You’re an ex-graphic designer, and a conceptual artist. What kind of work do you make?

I used to work in the packaging industry in South Africa, where it was day-to-day designs of boxes for irons, toasters, kettles and things that basically want to make you want to bash your head repeatedly against a toilet. I now work as a studio photographer for Tesco, which is an amazing job and has afforded me the luxury of photographing Eric in places all across the UK.

Luckily I have my creative outlets on the go. Via instagram, I do my 'eric' toy photography, which has gained me a substantial following. I like to think of my photographs as little stories and poems and hopefully that's what sets me apart from the bazillion other people taking pictures of toys. 

I don't like to pigeonhole myself as a photographer, and prefer to think of myself as a conceptual artist, or visual artist. I guess you really could say, I am just a hacker, who makes whatever he likes, and others seem to like it too. I paint and sell my work around the world. From Vans Shoes, to coffee paintings, to making sculptures out of found materials.


Can you explain the thinking behind your Stormtrooper photographs?

I have always loved taking photographs, and when I moved to this country 6 years ago I would walk around outside, shooting landscapes and street photography. Then the darkness and cold of winter came; something I was unaccustomed to, coming from sunny South Africa. I found myself staying inside more, setting myself little photographic challenges.

I have always loved Stormtroopers; not even Star Wars necessarily; just Stormtroopers and the dark side. I had a few Lego troopers and a Darth Vader sitting atop my shelf, so I started setting up little scenes with them, which made me laugh. At that point I was still using deviant art and I was having huge amount of fun. People were responding positively, so when Instagram came out I started posting there, and the feedback and reception was just phenomenal. The whole story of the Stormtroopers started to take shape and looking back, I have had quite a few characters, but it has kind of settled now in the form of Eric and his adventures. 

Tell us about your coffee paintings…

I saw someone on Instagram doing some coffee doodles, and thought it looked like fun. Initially, I just wanted to incorporate it into a picture of Eric making a doodle, but before I knew it I was hooked on painting with coffee and ink. I have auctioned a few of the pieces on instagram, and have found myself having to fulfil a number of commissions, even for a few high-profile clients. I intend to put together some time-lapse material and tutorials on it on my website and instagram, as many people have asked. Like my photography, this work is evolving, and I love that I am still finding techniques that work for me.

We know you’re a fan of Ampersand Aquabord, but what are your other favourite art materials and why? 

I'm the kind of person who LOVES art supplies. I have a desk full of mixed drawing media, paints and odds and ends. I just muck through it and use what works for me at that time. Right now, I am thoroughly enjoying my coffee painting, so the only thing I need is a slow brewed dark roast coffee and a bottle of sepia and white ink. My style is very free and rough, so if I couldn't find a brush I could just as easily use the end of my cats tail, although I do add detail with some fine brushes at the end. I have recently introduced accents of brown and vibrant colour in gouache, for the splashes and drips in the images. Since gouache is more opaque than ink, it works well for finishing details, and a little tube goes a long way. I was initially doing these on 300gm watercolour paper, but since finding the aqua bord, I am hooked, and it means I no longer have the stretch the paper. It's such a vibrant surface to work on, and I get lost in the detail, and how the coffee and inks run into each other and mix. Like I say, it's an evolving process so the more I discover, the better it becomes. After discovering Cass Art, I can see myself buying a lot more materials. 


What advice do you have for someone trying to make it as a professional artist?

I can't give anyone advice on being "professional", as I am most definitely not one myself. All I can say, and this goes for whatever you are doing; photography, painting, drawing; do what you love, find your own style and just keep doing it. No matter what anyone says, do what you want to do, and work to keep yourself happy. That way you will never tire of creating your work and will eventually find your audience. Also, social media! Whatever format works for you, just keep posting, people love seeing progress shots, behind the scenes etc. 

What’s next for you and your work?

This year has been an amazing year, and hopefully the next is going to be even better, I am planning a trip around the UK on my little motorbike, which I purposely purchased to get around to remote locations and photograph Eric on his adventures. I hope to bring them out in a graphic novel, as well as a cook book, as I discovered food photography these past few years at my current job and I love it. Painting wise, I would love to incorporate it into my trips, setting up in little coffee shops, bashing out unique coffee paintings all over the place and possibly auctioning them off in order to cover a few expenses. I then plan to do a few exhibitions, mainly photographic works as I am currently in talks with a few sponsors, which is pretty exciting, but I am sure I will be slipping a painting or two in there too, as it all links in together. The main plan is to just to keep doing what I love, and one day I'll hopefully be able to support myself financially and do a lot more of it!

Feeling Inspired? 

Find more of Darryll's work on his Instagram, Facebook and 500 px pages. 

Explore more of Darryll Jones' work on his website here.

Shop for his preferred Ampersand Aquabord at Cass Art.

Back to blog