Freelance illustrator Moonsub Shin is turning single-use paper cups into works of art. Born and raised in South Korea, Moonsub Shin moved to New York City in 2007 and began drawing on paper cups in 2017. Drawing interiors, coffee gear, and baristas, Moonsub Shin captures the vibe and subtle details of each cafe. We’ve seen cups pop-up on display on counters in Portland and New York. We connected via email to learn more.
Interview edited and condensed for clarity.
We first met you as you were illustrating on a coffee cup at the New York Coffee Festival last year. How long have you been drawing on coffee cups?
I call it “Paper-cup Drawing” and it’s been two years since I started the project.
We’ve seen your cups proudly displayed at cafes around the world. How many cups have you illustrated since you’ve started this project?
I don’t count the exact numbers of the cup drawings. I think they might be about 300.
How long does it take to complete a coffee cup illustration?
It usually takes 30 minutes but sometimes takes an hour. It depends on the conditions. Capacities of the cup, cup’s surface, and what I want to draw on it.
You spend your time in South Korea and New York City—where are some of your favorite places to drink coffee in those places?
Here are some of my favorite cafes in both cities:
That is such a difficult question. Both cities have so many great cafes. It’s so hard to pick only some cafes. Actually, my home is the best place to enjoy coffee because I can do whatever I want!
What are you brewing at home now?
I’m drinking iced pour-over coffee. The coffee is Costa Rica Perla Del Cafe Typica Natural, roasted by Fritz Coffee Company in Seoul. Usually I also make espresso, cappuccino, latte, and cold brew at home.
How do you make it?
I’m using a Breville BES 860XL for espresso-based coffee, Hario V60, Chemex, and HOLZKLOTZ for the pour-over coffee, Bean Plus Cold Brew Coffeemaker for the cold brew. Wow… now I realize I have a lot of gear.
What projects are you currently working on?
I have a few freelance jobs. Some jobs are related to cafes and others are not. Paper-cup Drawing is my on-going project. Also, I’m preparing the essay-illustration book.
Can you tell us more about the essay-illustration book?
Oh, it’s really in the beginning steps. It is about the NYC cafes I love. Try to share my experiences about them from the illustrator’s point of view. I don’t want the book to be a “coffee evaluation book.” I just want to show how NYC cafes are great. Of course, it will contain many illustrations I draw.
Looking forward to it! Thanks, Moonsub!
Photos courtesy Moonsub Shin.