Cheeming Boey lives in California and does stuff with computers by day, but by night he makes art with a styrofoam cup and a sharpie. The result is a series of monochrome images that cannot be fully seen from any one angle, incorporating a broad range of visual styles and a dense array of textures on a typically unvalued surface. Don’t Panic asked him what it’s all about.
You draw on styrofoam cups. But we throw those away! That's crazy! Why do something so crazy?
I didn’t think it was crazy. People draw on napkins, receipts, wood. I was outside a coffee shop and had the urge to sketch while people watched. I found a foam cup on top of a trash can, and it was all I had, so that was what I worked with.
It turned out nice, and I kept it. Then I made it a point to collect more, so I drew on more cups.
One day a co worker asked what I was going to do with all the cups I had around my workspace, and I said,” they’re nice, maybe I can sell them one day.” To which he said, “no one is going to buy that crap.” And here I am.
How long does each cup take and how often do you sit down to draw them?
Boey responded with this image detailing his process (click for larger version):
Some of your work is inspired by things that happen in your life, like the one about the crow and the lollipop, and you seem to use a variety of visual styles. What ideas and styles have inspired your most recent cups?
It’s hard to say what influenced a particular cup, especially those that takes a few weeks to do. It usually begins with a visual stimulant, TV, books, drawings, and occasionally a random thought. Then throughout the drawing process, the “mood” of the cups are set based on the songs I listen to when I work on them.
I don’t like to limit myself to a distinct drawing style. I want to be able to branch out as much as possible. I think that has worked to my advantage, because different styles appeal to different crowds, having a wide range of drawing techniques have brought various audience to my site.
You've said before that you keep and drink out of the cups you make mistakes on. Have you made any cups that you like too much to drink out of or sell?
I only drink out of the ones I messed up on, never the ones I like. Those go right to galleries or onto my display shelf at home. And yes, there are a few I can’t sell, and it’s usually because it is a prototype of a new drawing style I am experimenting and I want to keep for future reference, or that it took an insane amount of time to work on.
When did you decide to start selling the cups in display cases, and do you think the cases change how people see your work?
I think the cases made them feel more important, and complete. I am fine with the cups sitting out on their own on my shelf, but not everyone can look past the fact that they’re ‘disposable’. The cases for some reason helps with that. Now its more of an ‘art’ piece. It’s all psychological. To me, just because something is labelled disposable, doesn’t mean it has to be. It is what you make of it.
How long do you think your cups will last?
The cups will last forever, definitely longer than we will be around. Last I read, about 500 years.
You can buy Boey’s cups on his etsy store, www.etsy.com/shop/boyobsolete, and find photos and read his journal at his website, iamboey.com.