Arty Farty Cafes

This isn’t going to be about art, as such, but I had a random slightly-arty thought today while in my favourite ‘cafe for being alone and arty in’.

Strong coffee and sketch pad - the two essential ingredients for an arty farty image

Strong coffee and sketch pad – the two essential ingredients for an arty farty lifestyle

I have a number of cafes in town that I like to go to for different reasons. I go to this one (Designa Cake and Cupcake Cafe) for quiet, indulgent one-to-one chats with friends or with my husband. I also go there for the cup cakes (and the cup cakes are To Die For – highly recommended). I go to this one (Heroes Coffee / Infinity and Beyond Sci Fi Shop) for those Big Bang Theory moments and also when I am with all my boys because they like to look at the geeky merchandise while they drink their milkshakes. I go to this one (Shrewsbury Coffee House) when I want to be alone, Bohemian and arty and drink a really good strong Americano.


Toffee Crisp Cupcake from Designa Cake and Cupcake Cafe

Sitting in the Shrewsbury Coffee House today with my Americano and sketch pad I had a thought: does this cafe make me feel more arty? Does it provide inspiration? And if so, why? Is it because of the coffee, the music, the decor, the other clientele? Does that mean that I need more than what is in my head for inspiration? How important is my environment for my art? Why don’t I feel inspired in the same way in the other two coffee shops, or at home, or on a park bench with a take away coffee?

A cafe Sheldon would approve of

A cafe Sheldon would approve of

It is a well-known, if not a scientifically-studied, fact that creative people like to hang about in cafes looking for a conducive environment for working, inspiration or just a good cup of coffee. J. K. Rowling allegedly drafted the first Harry Potter book sitting in a cafe. Hemmingway was well-known for hanging about in cafes.

The Shrewsbury Coffee House seems to attract the creative mind. Today, I overheard one chap say to another ‘good luck with the writing’. As I sat there sketching a fellow coffee drinker I received an approving smile from another coffee drinker.

When I think of artists and their cafes I think of the French. I wonder if it is the French who first started being arty in cafes and making cafes arty. They certainly liked to paint cafes. Apparently, both Picasso and Modigliani are supposed to have settled cafe tabs by offering the owners drawings. Not that I would try that one in Shrewsbury.  Perhaps the cafe is a way to escape the loneliness of the studio or writing table. It allows the artist still to be alone yet surrounded by people. I suspect that a lot of artists are lonely loners.

Van Gogh 'Cafe Terrace at Night'

Van Gogh ‘Cafe Terrace at Night’

Mostly I love to go to the Shrewsbury Coffee House for the coffee (it really is very good), the people to sketch and the memories it invokes of the Jericho Cafe in Oxford, which is one of my favourite arty farty cafes of all time. But it also does inspire me to go home and do something creative (such as write this blog).

On Walton Street - many a happy coffee had in here

On Walton Street – many a happy coffee had in here

Whatever is giving me the inspiration, whether it be the other coffee drinkers, the furniture, the decor, the staff, the wooden floor, the coffee, or all of the above, doesn’t really matter so much. It works, that’s enough.

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5 Responses to Arty Farty Cafes

  1. Perhaps there’s an art project there – visiting these cafes frequented by arty people and seeing if you are inspired, then trying the same thing in Costa Coffee at some motorway services…

    For starters:

    …although I suspect that you could sit down in any cafe in Montparnasse and find out that it had been frequented by some famous artist or other.

    From Wikipedia on La Rotonde: “Proprietor Libion allowed starving artists to sit in his café for hours, nursing a ten-centime cup of coffee and looked the other way when they broke the ends from a baguette in the bread basket. If an impoverished painter couldn’t pay their bill, Libion would often accept a drawing, holding it until the artist could pay. As such, there were times when the café’s walls were littered with a collection of artworks, that today would make the curators of the world’s greatest museums drool with envy.”

    So perhaps before offering your quick sketch of a Starbucks card in payment, you should try nibbling on the paninis first.

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