Monday, December 6, 2021

Changes at Zoka Coffee


12/1/21 Zoka Coffee, Green Lake neighborhood

I had been thinking for a long time about going back to Zoka Coffee – one of my favorite winter sketching haunts for many years in the Before Time. Now that I’m boostered, and since I knew Zoka requires proof of vaccination, I felt more confident about spending time there.

As I always used to, I arrived before 7 a.m. to get the best choice of tables. People using the free wi-fi to work on their laptops and even conduct meetings usually start filling the tables by then, but to my surprise, only a few other patrons were there.

“So – what do you have planned for the day?”

“Getting my booster. Exciting, huh? How was your Thanksgiving?”

The counter chit-chat between the barista and an apparently regular patron might have seemed unusual during ordinary times, but not now. Some tables had been removed and others rearranged to allow for more space between them. Well-worn stickers on the floor helped patrons to space themselves in line (by now, don’t we all intuitively know how far away six feet is?). Everything is served in disposable cups and bags, even if you are staying.

I chose my favorite corner table. The sun would not come up for at least another half-hour, and it seemed much darker inside than I remembered. Without natural light from the large windows behind me, I could barely see the two women deep in conversation about their Thanksgivings and home renovation plans. Instead of struggling to draw facial features and other details, I decided to use the colored pencil techniques I had learned from Sarah Bixlers workshops and focus only on large shapes and color temperature changes. It was not at all my usual style for sketching people in public, so it felt fresh, foreign and not entirely comfortable, just like being back at Zoka.

Zoka no longer served my favorite coffee cake. When I asked about it, the barista said she didn’t think they had ever had coffee cake. She obviously had not worked there in the Before Time. As soon as I bit into the croissant, I remembered that I don’t like them there (they leave a film on my palate). By the time I finished it, the sun had come up, and more light filled the space with familiar shapes and shadows. I used my “normal” style to draw the young woman in the beanie working at her laptop. A nice touch: Every large table had a bottle of hand sanitizer, like a café condiment.

These COVID changes are probably things most people are used to already, but I didn’t get out much pre-vax, and I’ve only recently started slowly tiptoeing back to indoor venues.

Has Zoka changed, or is it mostly me who has changed?


  1. I like that sketch of the women by the window. It has that "early morning" feel to the lighting. I haven't sketched in any coffee shops since the Before Time. I have been in and out of a Starbucks quickly and then sat outside with a friend, but didn't sketch. By the time I'm ready to sketch people indoors I'm going to be soooo rusty. lol

    1. I'm not sure how often I'll do it... I guess it depends on how crowded the coffee shop is. But I need to find a brighter place -- this one is too dark!

  2. I haven't yet ventured inside yet. It's good that it's finally feeling safe enough to do after vaccines and boosters.

    Róisin Curé had a free demo on Etchr Studio YouTube about her simple approach to drawing people, especially faces.


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