Perk You Up: Meet the man behind the RVA Coffee Stain blog

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – All this week, Good Morning Richmond has been working to Perk You Up! We’ve been talking all about coffee.

You might have heard of the blog RVA Coffee Stain. Its cartoons are featured around the city and the blog has gained thousands of fans. But who’s the artist behind it?

8News Reporter Evanne Armour went to his studio to find out.

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The blog

The artist behind RVA Coffee Stain describes his site as “a cartoon blog that celebrates Richmond.”

You might not know his name, but you’ve probably seen his work.

“I’ll be at an event or something and meet someone and they’ll be like, ‘Oh he does RVA Coffee Stain,’ and it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s you?'”

Doug Orleski started the blog when he moved to Richmond three years ago. Now, his social media accounts showcasing his work have thousands of followers and his art can be seen throughout town.

“I was just inspired by the things I was seeing around the city,” he said. “A lot of the early stuff was me kind of experiencing shops and places for the first time.”

The cartoonist often points out their quirks or makes you look at something in a different way.

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Teddy Roosevelt outside The Roosevelt

His rendition of The Roosevelt features Teddy Roosevelt standing outside the restaurant. His print for L’Opossum shows opossums protesting outside.

“A lot of times I’ll go to a restaurants and have such a fun time and experience the restaurant that I’ll get inspired while I’m there,” said Orleski.

His take on one of Richmond’s most famous streets makes you think about it…from another angle.

“This is the butts of Monument Avenue,” he said pointing to the print. “So it’s all the monuments on Monument Avenue, but it’s their butts.”

butts
Butts of Monument Avenue

Orleski’s style caught on and soon people were requesting prints, turning his popular blog into a business.

“It’s pretty crazy to me to think about that. It’s still fun when a sale comes in,” he said. “I’m still kind of shocked when it happens.”

Pre-RVA Coffee Stain

He didn’t always have such success. Before moving to Richmond, Orleski had never sold a piece of artwork. In fact, he had a hard time even getting published.

As a student at Christopher Newport University, Orleski started submitting cartoons to the school paper, The Captain’s Log. But they weren’t getting picked up.

Even after multiple failed attempts, he kept sending in his cartoons. Then, one clicked.

“That’s the first place I was published and where I got the bug,” he said.

It still took Orleski some time to find his cartooning voice. He admits he used to do things for shock value, which wasn’t always received well.

“I would get messages like, ‘You stink’ and ‘This is awful. These are the worst cartoons I’ve ever seen.’ Stuff like that,” he said.

But he kept at it, developing his own style.

“I found I didn’t have to be vulgar or shocking to get reactions or shares out of people,” he said.

Today, he’s a weekly contributor to Style Weekly.

Inside RVA Coffee Stain's studio
Inside RVA Coffee Stain’s studio

On a wall in his studio, he has two framed cartoons hanging side by side — his last one as a student and his first at Style Weekly.

His advice for cartoonists still trying to find their way?

“Don’t get frustrated. It’s hard, but definitely keep putting your work out there as much as you can, even if you’re not getting the response you want. Just keep creating and keep pushing work out there until you find your voice and eventually people will connect with it at some point.”

Art abandonment

One way Orleski has gotten his work out there has been jumping on the art abandonment bandwagon.

abandonment
Lauren Bacon was one of the first people to pick up her free print at Rostov’s on Friday.

“I thought it would be something really cool to do around Richmond and a good way for people to see my work, was just to leave it in the street and they could take it home,” he said.

He’ll drop one of his prints somewhere in the city, snap a picture and post the details online. Whoever gets there first gets to take it home — for free.

On Friday, Orleski rolled out his biggest art abandonment project yet, and he announced the secret phrase and location fans need to know on Good Morning Richmond.

He left 15 5×7 prints at Rostov’s Coffee & Tea on W. Main St. in Richmond.

All you have to do is be one of the first 15 people to order “an extra shot of RVA Coffee Stain” with your drink and it’s yours.

If you snag one of the 15 prints, like Lauren Bacon did, send us a picture to iReport8@wric.com.

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