Turn Your Recipes into Art

Everyone has those favorite recipes. The go-to weeknight stir fry, the trusted chocolate chip cookies. Even if you don't cook, there are probably a few foods that conjure up memories of relatives passing along their "famous" recipes. Perhaps it's not a recipe that you feel nostalgic for, but rather something that reminds you of childhood, like gushers or dunkaroos (anyone else?).

Recipe illustrations can be made about any of these examples, as a way to cherish those foods and the memories that come along with them. We can use recipe illustration to pay homage to a special person, or to educate people on places and cultures. Recipe illustration can also serve a very functional purpose, providing instructions on how to cook a dish.

So let's start where any illustrator should, finding inspiration! Take a moment to pick out a recipe to focus on. Maybe it's simply what you're craving now, or what you eat for breakfast every morning. It doesn't need to be a fancy recipe at all.

Do a quick internet search of photos that relate to your recipe. It also helps to see how other artists might interpret the recipe and ingredients. A good resource is www.theydrawandcook.com where you can find thousands of illustrated recipes by artists all over the world. You can browse to get inspiration or search by recipe title or ingredients.

Once you have your recipe, start sketching! This is your time to loosen up and to think about what you want to communicate about your recipe. For instance, maybe you want to show the process of how to make it, including the tools involved. Or maybe you want to bring the viewer to the finished meal, depicting what the scenery would be like and who would be there. Just because it's a recipe illustration, doesn't mean it has to only be about the food!

Here are a few examples from my sketchbook before I got started with a recipe for DIY Uncrustables (I went in the quirky, nostalgic direction with this one).

Thumbnail sketches exploring different compositions.

A loose sketch to jot down ideas and figure out which colors I'd be using.

From here, I did I rough sketch for my final drawing. I played around a bit with the composition before going in with watercolor. Consider where you'll put the title and how much space the instructions will take up. I wanted mine to include the final product along with the process of how it's made. I also decided to include some other lunch time elements from childhood.

Note: Don't be intimidated by drawing! If you have a terrible fear of it, you can use collage or photography. You can also distill the illustration to simple shapes and focus more on color for now!

And there it is, my finished recipe illustration! I had fun playing around with all the different colors and textures. Remember that your recipe illustration can be as simple or intricate as you want and can range from functional to decorative! The most important thing is to try to bring some emotion or context to your work, to pull the viewer in, and to make people hungry for more!

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