Ohn Mar Win’s Illustrated Recipes

They Draw & Cook is the internet’s largest collection of illustrated recipes created by artists from around the world. Founded by Nate Padavick and Salli Swindell, the site features more than 7,200 recipes, and it grows each day. They’ve since published more than a dozen books with recipes from the site, and one The Most Gorgeous Cookbook Ever, features 30 recipes by artist Ohn Mar Win. Swindell says, “We LOVE receiving illustrated recipes from Ohn Mar Win! Her illustrations always capture a mood and vibe that would be really hard to achieve with a photograph.”

Win who’s based in the UK, has been an illustrator and designer for 20 years. She teaches classes for Skillshare on drawing and watercolor techniques. Here, she shares five tips to help you get started on your own illustrated recipe.

  1. Research

Before beginning a project, I always collect lots of reference photos and create a mood board. This helps me to see many angles of the image—in this case, figs—and shows the variances in colors. I often use Pinterest for broad references, but if I need something more specific, I’ll use an image library like Shutterstock.

  1. Put it down on paper

Win: I always start with a hand-drawn sketch rendered in brush pen or black pen, which I scan and take into Photoshop for the texture. I find this method helps me keep the spontaneity of the sketch, which a lot of clients like. My best suggestion is just draw and draw and draw – that’s how I got good at food! It’s very important to observe actual food so you can translate your understanding of it in a recipe or piece of packaging.

  1. Establish the composition before drawing.

Win: I draw out the ingredients that I think I’ll need based on the layout I’ve chosen. Most of the time I follow the sketch layout, but sometimes I’ll rearrange the composition in Photoshop or Illustrator depending on what other elements I’m using.

 

  1. Follow basic lettering rules.

Win: I’m mindful of the lettering placement when I sketch out my rough. I also take a look at lettering sites like My Fonts to get a feel for what sort of lettering style would suit the vibe of my recipe.

Swindell notes, “The angle of the title and the mix of lettering styles help to make this composition so dynamic and engaging.”

  1. Color is key.

Win: I look very closely at foods and often seek out the nuances within them, especially if they are heirloom vegetables, which I love to paint or illustrate. You can do whatever you want when you’re creating for yourself, but clients may have their own ideas about how they want their foods to be colored based on the final product.

Swindell says, “The colors and stylization of the figs are pure magic. The colors almost sparkle against the dark rich background.”

“Figs are a super sexy fruit to draw because they are so curvy and lyrical. In truth, I think her illustrated version of the fig tart looks way more appetizing than the real thing,” Swindell notes.
“One of the best things about this recipe is the organization of the information. It’s super easy to know what ingredients you need and how to prepare the dish. It makes me want to make a Fig Tart. NOW!”

From Vacation to Vocation

It started in 2010 with a crate of figs, some fetuccine, butter and balsamic vinegar.  The next thing they knew, they had spawned a community of food and illustrations around the word. Salli S. Swindell and her brother Nate Padavick of Studio SSS—were on vacation.

“Nate was cooking fettuccine with figs in butter balsamic sauce—sounds amazing, right?” recall Salli.  “While he was cooking, I was at the counter drawing the crate of fresh figs and sipping wine. It was an ‘Aha!’ moment. Drawing food is fun! I told Nate we needed to find more food illustration jobs.”

They Draw and Cook first began as a printed book of illustrated recipes they’d give away to friends, family, and clients. Nate had the idea to invite other  friends to contribute to the book. Weeks and months passed. While awaiting one submission for the book,  Nate grew impatient. On a whim, he posted eight of the illustrated recipes to a blog he and Salli decided to brand They Draw and Cook.

Word spread. Others began submitting illustrated recipes. In a short time, they had hundreds. Then thousands: more than 250,000 follow the blog on Facebook; more than 40,000 follow it on Instagram. Schools are using these sites for classroom assignments. “Some of our finest illustrated recipes are from students attending MICA, CCAD, and SCAD,” adds Salli. “We welcome a range of styles and skill level, and especially like it when we see an artist improve their skills one recipe or map at a time.”

The site’s popularity has inspired Nate and Salli to think of fresh ideas to unite illustration and personal interests. The compiled a list of “They Draw and …” variations.  Nate’s love of travel includes an interest in map design. The brother and sister added a map feature to their site to enable visitors to find other illustrators around the world.  Then they created They Draw and Travel—a companion site that is just as fun as their food site.

Although these started as a whim, the sites take up quite a chunk of time each week. Salli manages the cooking site and Nate the travel site, and each spend 15 to 20 hours a week. With so much effort devoted to the sites, Nate and Salli try to offset the costs with sponsorships that won’t clutter the site, such as illustrated recipe contests. Salli explains, “In the past, companies such as Glad, Kraft, UPPERCASE magazine and The Food Network have sponsored contests and offered cash prizes of up to $5,000. Contests are super fun and create a ton of buzz. We don’t have any planned right now, but would love to! Anyone? Anyone?”

They also have published several books as offshoots of the sites that help pay for website development. Cookbooks ranging from cocktails, vegan, fig and holiday recipes are available on their online shop, and Nate just published his first illustrated map book, titled The Draw and Travel, 100 Illustrated Maps of American Places by Artists Around the World.

The best part about both sites is the collaborative nature and it has actually helped many artists secure new clients. “We’ve made so many new friends and have discovered new food and adventure with every recipe and map,” Salli explains. “What started out as a way for nine of us to meet a few new clients, turned into a way for thousands of artists to connect with art directors all around the world. Every week or so we hear from an artist telling us that they were contacted by an art director who spotted their work on one of our sites. It doesn’t get any better than that!”

But don’t be surprised to see amateur artists featured alongside pros on the sites. They only turn art away if it isn’t the correct size or format. “Quite a few schools use our sites for classroom assignments. Some of our finest illustrated recipes are from students attending MICA, CCAD and SCAD. We like the range of styles and skill level and we especially like when we see an artist improve their skills one recipe or map at a time!”

Five Drawing Books For People Who Don’t (Necessarily) Draw

It’s that time of year when it starts to get dark at 4:00 p.m., and the thought of starting a new project is more likely to incite a yawn than enthusiasm. Sometimes we just need a kick in the pants—or in this case, a good book or two to get those creative juices flowing. Step away from your monitor, pick up a pencil or pen, and have some fun with these drawing books from Quarto Books. Read the story here.

warhol change
An exercise from Salli S. Swindell’s new book, Change Your Life One Doodle at a Time.