Miguel Cardona’s Coffee Cups for Charity

A San Francisco-based artist illustrates on the common to-go cup and donates all the proceeds to children in need

by Eva Glettner


Miguel Cardona is a professor of design and an illustrator with an unusual canvas: the paper coffee cup. No subject is off limits for Cardona—in fact, the more obscure, the better; be it Breaking Bad’s Walter White, aliens or sea creatures. But it’s what Cardona does with his myriad coffee cups that is even more special. He sells them and donates all of the proceeds to Project Night Night to help donate baby blankets, children’s books and stuffed animals to children in homeless shelters.

The artist’s interesting hobby began last year when he visited a cafe close to where he was doing on-site design contract work. The barista tied a napkin around the cup and Cardona’s imagination got the best of him—the napkin became a scarf on a hipster-type character he created on the cup. The next day the scarf became a Ninja Turtle’s mask, then a doo-rag.

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Cardona tells CH, “Mostly I like robots and skulls. I’m a total 15-year-old boy when it comes to my art sometimes. I once read a story about a woman who had baby squid growing in her gums and I could envision it so well, I had a mini-series of portraits of folks who were suffering and fighting off tentacles from within their own mouths. It kind of sounds morbid, but to me it felt like a very fitting way to express a lot of what I was going through at that time.”

He loves the challenge of drawing on cups and the respect it earns him as an artist. It is nearly impossible to trace anything from an underlying surface or project onto a cup, which means he is sketching strictly freehand. While it’s difficult, it’s also simple: “You have this three-dimensional object that is in your hands, you can pull the cup in a different direction and hold the pen still. You can also hide a lot of flawed perspective. You don’t need a desk, it can be done anywhere, and to protect it, you can stack it in another blank cup. The cup itself can hold your art supplies and is itself, a display stand, it’s quite the perfect design.”

Original coffee cup artworks are available online.

Images courtesy of Miguel Cardona