April 15, 2011

illustrated recipes blog They Draw and Cook, plus interviews


{ first posted April 15, edited April 18/20 to include Mentaiko Kimchi Udon and Pretty Cupcakes }

My stomach's been growling since I discovered They Draw and Cook. With appetizing recipes like this peppering the site, who wouldn't be?

pizza with goat's cheese and fig tapenade by Louise Norman
Louise is a UK artist with a whose portfolio includes works on paper art, paintings, sculptures,
installations, as well as design work and illustrations. Visit her at her website Louise Norman.
[ all photos courtesy of artists and used with permission ]

They Draw and Cook is a food blog with a difference. You won't find beautifully styled photos and temperamental chefs showing off their chops. What you'll see is an splendid visual feast: fun, colorful and artful recipes illustrated with at times a generous pinch of cuteness, other times a serving of slick design and oftentimes a double dose of whimsy. Dig in and you may discover a little more than just cooking tips.

Take Alyssa DeGeorge's recipe. The Kent State University student can tell you all about catching a lobster and cooking it as she's spent summers doing just that with her father off Newburyport. "I love the idea of getting a lobster straight from the ocean and cooking it right on the boat to eat. A day of lobstering is a relaxing, unique adventure I wanted to share through my work," she told liberal sprinkles. So for a class project for They Draw and Cook, she created this illustration peppered with instructions for catching a lobster and, look closely, she even tells you how to check if it's a girl or boy!

Fresh New England Lobster illustrated recipe by Alyssa DeGeorge, via They Draw and Cook
see more of Alyssa DeGeorge's works at Behance

I love this illustration, it reminds me of a vacation in New England I took a few years ago. It was fall, the colors were beautiful and I ate lots of seafood was in Maine. I stayed at a lovely studio apartment overlooking a bay on Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park. There are a bunch of lobster restaurants along the bridge leading to the island where you can also buy live lobsters and seafood. I ate at several including the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound of course, and took home a 3 pound lobster one night. I'd never cooked lobster before but it's pretty easy. You just throw it in a pot of boiling water and cook it until it turns red. yummmy...

Fettucine and Fig Pasta illustrated recipe by Salli Swindell, via TheyDrawAndCook.com

The illustration above is the one that started it all. The "aha" moment, as co-founder Salli Swindell puts it. Sister/brother design team Salli Swindell and Nate Padavick of Studio SSS are the brains behind They Draw and Cook. During a family vacation, while Nate was trying to recreate a favorite dish - fettucine with figs in a balsamic butter sauce - Salli was painting the figs with her watercolors. Thus was born the idea of illustrating food.

They started by trying to get recipes from artist friends for a self-published book but when they didn't get enough, they started the blog, with just 8 recipes. That was in February 2010. Well, they cooked up a terrific winning recipe. Today, They Draw and Cook is a resource for about 1,300 illustrated recipes by 750 contributors - professional illustrators and practising artists, as well as people who are just "passionate doodlers and drawers", as the site states.

Salli was sweet enough to reply to some questions liberal sprinkles asked.  "Nate and I are still completely thrilled every single time a new recipe is submitted. We love that the site feels like a party with lots of new faces, food and drink showing up all the time! There is such a great collective energy on TDAC.  Many of the artists have made connections with new clients via TDAC which is so exciting and was actually one of our goals from the start."

They Draw and Cook book, coming in October 2011
And there's more on the horizon. Not only has the site's success led to a children's blog, Kids Draw and Cook (very cute!), the new illustrated maps blog They Draw and Travel ( I adore this one, each illustration tells so many fantastic stories!) , a 224-page book of 107 recipes is now in the works as well. The photo on the left shows the cover, which was designed by Nate and based on his recipe for Curry Cabbage. They Draw & Cook is already available for pre-order at Amazon. Click here!

I asked Salli how the book project came about. "From the very beginning, They Draw and Cook really felt like a book. A super cool book full of humor and beauty and yumminess with the recipes and the artwork. This kind of cookbook puts the fun back into cooking.  It's very interesting to see how all of the artists tell the story of a recipe." The book, published by Weldon-Owen, will hit the bookshelves in October.

And that's not all.
liberal sprinkles:  The site is a great showcase for not only artists but anyone who likes to draw, do you have any plans to develop the project further, maybe set up a shop to sell the designs, convert them into kitchen towels, aprons etc? 

Salli: Absolutely!  I have a studio full of notes, sketches, ideas and lists of the many ways we would like to expand TDAC.  This will be a great opportunity for the artists to make some money.
How cool is that? Maybe we can soon wear our favorite recipes while preparing them! Let's take a look at a couple of my favorites (although I've only got to about 100 of those wonderful illustrations so far).

Salsa Verde illustrated recipe by Geninne Zlatkis, via They Draw and Cook

I love everything about this illustration, it's so cute, happy and colorful. I also love the hat! I've followed Geninne's Art blog for a few months now but didn't see this illustration until I discovered They Draw and Cook. Geninne is a wonderful artist based in Querétaro, Mexico. You have to see her gorgeous creations.

Figs and Strawberries Mix by Meta Wraber via They Draw and Cook

This salad recipe was drawn by Slovene Meta Wraber from Ljubljana, Slovenia, who tells me: "It is not a particularly Slovene recipe, I guess it's a mixture of few different fig recipes I know, and I always add or skip a certain ingredient...so it might always be a little bit different. And that is my approach to illustrating food, I like to mix, collage and just see what happens with a composition. My illustrations are therefore very floaty, ethereal, unpredictable."

I love her process. I'm very much like that when I cook (and in other things too), I may look at a recipe but unless it's baking, I pretty make it my own depending on what or what else I have in the kitchen and I always add more of what I like. You can see some of Meta's lovely watercolors at her blog metamundus.

Pretty Cupcakes by Joana Faria via TheyDrawAndCook.com
OK, who dares tell me they don't love this? I fell head over heels for this when I saw it. I'm not at all girlie or feminine but this is sooooo lovely, sooooo sweet, soooo cute and... you get the picture. I love it so much I'm editing the post to include it after getting permission today to use the illustration. Brazilian-born illustrator Joana Faria, who now lives in Portugal, created this beauty and if you are wondering why she didn't get back to me earlier, it's because she was visiting Tajikistan. WOW! You can read a pre-trip post at her blog.

Joana explains why this is not a traditional recipe: "When I was illustrating, I thought it was important to show the ingredients, but that's about it. I decided not to focus on the recipe instructions and instead, try to create a magical place where cupcakes just happen to exist! Wouldn't that be wonderful."

Yes! We all need a little magic in our lives sometimes (all the time would be better but I shouldn't be greedy) and this artwork makes me feel really good in a fairy tale princess sort of way. I love Joana's drawing style, which she calls "girlie". This is how she goes about creating her pieces:
"I rarely ever plan my compositions. I just go for it. I usually start sketching in pencil and then when I'm happy with the general feel and layout of the piece, I re-do it in fine point black marker. That's my favorite part and then I start filling in all the details. With this illustration specifically, I wanted it to be rich and busy, so I drew for hours and hours... After it was done, I scanned it and added color digitally."
I wish I had magic fingers but I'll just have to admire the work of real artists instead. For more "girlie" illustrations, go on over to Joana Faria's blog or website. You won't be disappointed!

On to the next course: how to cook up a storm by a boy and his little blue friend...

Rigatoni With Figs And Curry by Tomek Giovanis via They Draw and Cook

This pasta recipe was among the suggestions I got when I tried out the Find A Recipe option at TDAC. You just have to pick your ingredients or meal types, or if you're more adventurous, an illustration style. Among the 13 choices: "awww - so cute", "fresh and hip" and "illustrated with great characters". I chose "totally hilarious" and bing, got this funny piece by artist/illustrator Tomek Giovanis from Athens, Greece. The illustration won first place in They Draw and Cook's Year of the Fig Recipe Contest. You can see more of Tomek's cartoons and cool stuff at his website Tomek, blog Tomek & and other ... things!!! and comic fanzine comic fanzine Hehe, which he co-founded.

The story behind the recipe in Tomek's words:
It's the only recipe I know with figs. Hahaha. But it's very special. Many years ago I was at some kind dinner party and all the people sat outside in the garden, so I went to the kitchen to watch a man making this "strange" recipe. Few days later I tried it at home and that's all, I just loved it! 

Tomek drew another illustration for TDAC before Rigatoni with Figs.

linguini with grilled tomatoes and feta cheese, illustrated recipe by Tomek Giovanis, via TDAC.com

There's the same chef and his blue sidekick! I love the story behind his characters. "I use a funny couple, a kid as Chef and a blue bean creature as his assistant. I want to show to people (and kids) how simple these two recipes are that two little and foolish guys can do it. But it's funny, little bit surrealistic and at the end everything works perfect," Tomek says.

Yup, kids can do it too, don't forget to check out the Kids Draw and Cook blog. And here's more stuff for your kids to play with (and admit it, you want to join in the fun! well, I do!).

World's Best Play Dough, illustrated recipe by Martha Plank via They Draw and Cook

Wow, what a fabulous non-food recipe! Don't you just love the layout? Bet Leonardo da Vinci would think so and agree with his muse Mona Lisa about therapeutic art. Cleveland-based graphic designer Martha Plank of Compelling Design tells liberal sprinkles where the idea for the "world's best play dough" came from:
"Since I have never been known for my cooking, I decided to play up my weakness! One is far more likely to find paint in my kitchen sink or kids science experiments on my counters than actual food! This play dough recipe was passed to me from my mother–out–law (my daughter’s fabulous grandmother) and over the years the girls and I have had so much fun making this recipe. Amazingly resistant to drying out and experimenting with all different color results is fun" 
I think I could get into some messy fun :) And did you notice she credits her "mother-out-law"? I love that! Martha's blog is Square Peg Symposium, where you can see some of her cool design work.

Great Beer Bread by Natalie Shenker in Tel Aviv, Israel

OK, this beer bread recipe is something I really want to try although I've baked bread only a couple times, like 20 years ago. I love all those cute little beer bottles, the dripping butter and the sugary fonts... *me drooling*  The genius behind this work of art is freelance illustrator Natalie Shenker from Tel Aviv, Israel. I wanted to know if it was an Israeli recipe.
Natalie: "I don't think it is necessarily an Israeli recipe...just one I got once from a friend and added touches of my own! It is just a fun recipe suited for gatherings, afternoon parties and so on. I make it a lot of times when I'm invited to a friend's house and asked to bring something to eat (and I'm too lazy to make something complicated). In accordance with the recipe and the situations in which I usually make it-, I wanted the illustration to be fun and easygoing too."

There's plenty of fun at TDAC for sure. Apart from the colorful recipes, there are also some awesome black and white illustrations. This is one that caught my eye.

Mentaiko Kimchi Udon by Stephanie Le via They Draw And Cook
mentaiko = marinated roe of pollock, a common ingredient in Japanese cooking
kimchi = traditional Korean fermented vegetables; there are loads of
different types of kimchi and they are used in all sorts of dishes
udon = a type of Japanese fat noodles

Isn't it just kawaii ("kawaii" means "cute" in Japanese). I love the use of black and white, the style and the subject. Noodles!! I love noodles, I could eat noodles for every meal. Seriously. I also love both Japanese and Korean food so when I saw this drawing, I just had to look into it.

It was drawn by Stephanie Le from Vancouver, Canada. She said she chose to draw this recipe after trying the dish at a favorite Japanese restaurant. Stephanie has an interesting blog momofukufor2, where she chronicled her adventures as she cooked her way through the
Momofuku Cookbook by David Chang and Peter Meehan (what a great idea for a blog!). Chang, who made it to Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People 2010 list (under artists - coz food is art, no?), owns the Momofuku restaurant chain, one of which earned 2 Michelin stars in 2009. 

Here's one last recipe I'm sharing that spells delicious promise from They Draw and Cook. It's from co-founder Salli.

Chick Pea Dip by Salli Swindell , co-founder of They Draw and Cook

I'm so glad Salli sent me this illustration to include. Why did she? "Because I would love to see a coloring cookbook!" ahhhh, I think that means we can take out our color pencils and crayons soon :) Of course you can do it already. There is a "print this recipe" button for the illustrations at They Draw and Cook, love that! The features at the blog make it even more fun than the burst of colors, creativity and inspiration that's aplenty. Apart from Find A Recipe, there's the word map that shows you where recipes have been submitted from.

Thank you to all the artists who were so kind to let me use their great artworks and answer my questions!

If you liked this post, please let me know in a comment! You can also get updates from this blog by email through this form or by subscribing or following me (links below or in my sidebar).

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check out my other art posts

already available for pre-order at Amazon.com!
They Draw and Cook: 107 recipes illustrated by artists from around the world

OK, Quakebook is not a recipe or food book. But it's for a great cause. Stories and reflections on the Japan earthquake and tsunami disaster, sourced via Twitter and produced in ONE week. 100% of proceeds to the Japanese Red Cross Society!

Related links
Illustrated recipes (Google images)
Another artist who creates art good enough to eat is Dawn Tan. Her illustrated recipes are gorgeous and are now available as tote bags, tea towels and posters at her shop Dawn Tan with Harvest Textiles. You can read about her life and see her creative art at her blog handmadelove.

by liberal sprinkles


salli s. swindell said...

WOW! Thanks so much for such an energetic, well written and FUN article!!!! Nate and I are over-the-top thrilled! Awesome selection of recipes you've featured!

Joana Faria said...

Oooh, I guess I am too late. Sorry for taking so long to reply to your comment on my blog. I am away on holiday and just saw it. so sorry. Thank you very much anyway for the lovely words. :) It made my day.
Great blog by the way.
Joana xxx

liberalsprinkles@gmail.com said...

Salli, it was such a pleasure writing this post, I'm still salivating!

hi Joana, it is never too late!! If you're OK with me using your illustration, I will update my blogpost!


TOMEK said...

Really great article!!!
It's like...hmm... TDAC backstage in a tiny pill. ;)))
Thanks Grace!

liberal sprinkles said...

you're too funny Tomek! but seriously, I would love to be a fly in the wall watching you guys draw. I'm fascinated by the process and I love all the thoughts behind the finished works!

Hannah Clark said...

Hi Grace,

Thanks for your lovely comment and this great article! TDAC is awesome: so glad these sort of opportunities exist.

What did you study at Kent Uni? I studied at the art college in Canterbury for a year but still live nearby.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

You got me with the fettucini and fig pasta in balsamic butter sauce. Oh. My. Gosh. *sigh* That sounds just too good!

Lynn said...

You amaze me with all the info you put into a blog. This was so cool.

Vhen said...

that's awesome =)


IMRIZ said...

thanks for this well written post...i am drooling:)

SmilingSally said...

That's a lot to read and even more to admire. I love those blues!

Happy Blue Monday, Grace.

DadEngrMommmyLES said...

very creative way of sharing your blues :P

Creatissimo said...

Thanks for stopping by at my blog :).
This article is great; I might even start to like cooking if I had that kind of illustrated recepies in my hands ;).

Ms. Burrito said...


Would you please come and see my Blues? Thanks a lot!

Nanna said...

what a fun & interesting post!

Jenn said...

My oh my those illustrations are too glorious! Thank you so much for sharing them. And thank you so much also for your kind words on my blog, i need all the encouragement I can get at the moment.

STEF said...

The illustrations are so dool! It made cooking a lot fun and interesting! I'm now a follower and it's my 1st time to have joined Blue Monday. Hope you can also check out my entry . Thank you!

Candace said...

This is awesome! As someone who cooks and blogs about it, this is a great new spin on the "same old thing". Very creative! The lobsta has me drooling. I'm so looking forward to having some of that now that I'm living in New England. I, also, can't wait to visit Acadia National Park this summer. My granddaughter was named for that beautiful place because her parents love it so much. Fun Fun post! Thanks for sharing!


liberal sprinkles said...

thanks for the comments, folks.
Glad you all enjoyed the post.

that's one of the best things about blogging: the support you get from the community: I wish you all the best in your art!

I'm glad you enjoyed it, TDAC is certainly different from the regular food blog and everything is so lovely to look at!

How lucky you are to live in New England, that is such a beautiful region. I really enjoyed my visit there although it was very short!


hahai.ponce said...

great presentation of recipes...makes it more fun in cooking the dishes :D

visiting here from Blue Monday

Candace said...

Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your sweet comment on my photo! I am not Italian and really do not know the language. :)
You asked about my technique. I didn't have one or use one in shooting the photo. All that I did to the photo was apply a focal black and white to it to make the blue pop. I have no idea what I'm doing most of the time. haha

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Hi Grace, I can't believe I haven't left you a comment on here yet! I love this whole post ... your part, and the artists/authors part. And, yep, for sure that is the best playdough recipe ever, and since they know that, I know that everything else will be delicious, lol. The coloring book part is excellent too.

Thanks for stopping by to say hi, and you can come and see us in Oregon anytime. I'll show ya around!

Take care,

Kathy M.

liberal sprinkles said...

I'm such a dunce, I have no idea how to apply a focal anything to a photo! I guess that means Photoshop? I've been meaning to learn some photo editing techniques, just haven't quite got round to it! It looks like a lot of fun. I usually play around with whatever tools I have and then just wing it - and that's not just with regard to photos, it's kind of my approach to most things in life. It gets me in trouble a lot, I managed to lose my Blogger followers function last weekend while messing with my blog settings and poof, all my followers were gone. OOPS! I don't think that's stopped me from playing with all those buttons and functions, I wonder what my next blooper will be!

Glad you enjoyed this! I thought of you when I saw that play dough recipe, I remember the one you posted a couple weeks ago. Try this one and let me know how it compares!


Joana Faria said...

Ooooooooh! This is such an amazing post!
Thank you so much for featuring my piece and for the lovely words. This truly made my day.
It's not easy being an illustrator and TDAC is a brilliant channel for illustration opportunities as well as inspiration. There's a lot of talent there. I'm constantly in awe of the work they post. TDAC rocks!

Thank you so much for this, Grace. Your blog is going straight to my bookmarks. :)

Lots of love,
Joana x

Emma said...

Wow, those pictures are totally amazing. I'm going to forward your post to my kids as they'd love them.. might even inspire - I'm ever an optomist!!

Tamara said...

Just stopping by and following from the hop. I also wanted to invite you to link up with my Wordless Wednesday hop. http://hisperfectpromises.blogspot.com/2011/04/wordless-wednesdays-adelaide.html

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