To illustrate its new How To Boil An Egg book by chef Rose Carrarini of Rose Bakery, publisher Phaidon – and the book’s designer Studio Frith – turned not to a food photographer or illustrator but to award-winning botanical artist Fiona Strickland…
The hardback, 136 page book (cover shown above) features 39 illustrations by Strickland in total, all created meticulously in watercolour to an incredible, almost photographic level of detail.
So where did the idea to commission a botanical artist come from? “There was a beautiful show of botanical prints at the Victoria and Albert Museum a couple of years ago at which the seed was sown,” the book’s designer Frith Kerr of Studio Frith tells us.
“After the success of her Breakfast Lunch Tea book, Rose Carrarini was keen to try something other than photography,” Kerr explains, “so we did exhaustive research with Phaidon to find a botanical illustrator to work with.”
But, Kerr tells us, finding a botanical illustrator to work with wasn’t an easy task, given that they would be tasking an artist to step outside their comfort zone. “In the end we made a short list of botantical illustrators whose work we liked and asked them each to paint an egg, in what we referred to as The Egg Test,” says Kerr. “Fiona’s egg stood out for its intense detailing and precision.”
An egg, we’d imagine here at CR would be mere child’s play compared to some of the illustrations produced by Strickland for the book. Take, for example, this stunning illustration of a Pumpkin Cake:
Perhaps surprisingly, given the quality of the illustrations in the book, these images represent Strickland’s very first foray into food illustration, and when she was commissioned, it was the prospect of having her work published in a book that was, the artist told CR, one of the persuading factors that made her take on the project.
“I do like to work from life although with botanical art and the transience of subjects sometimes I have also to rely on photographic images to support my drawings,” Strickland explained to us when we asked about the processes involved creating these images. “In this case a photographer travelled to Paris with editors from Phaidon to take photographs of the recipes which they then forwarded to me,” she says.
“In drawing and painting the images I had to resize the images and make colour swatches to match the photographs. Each photograph took sometime to draw and then paint, some taking over three weeks.”
“Watercolour can be a difficult medium to handle,” adds Strickland, “and to recreate some of the textures and colours of the food took sometime to build up to as close to a photograph as possible, I like to work with only the very transparent group of watercolours slowly building layers of tone and colour and this can be time consuming although giving beautiful results.”
How To Boil An Egg by Rose Carrarini is published by Phaidon at £22.95.
The April print issue of CR presents the work of three young animators and animation teams to watch. Plus, we go in search of illustrator John Hanna, test out the claims of a new app to have uncovered the secrets of viral ad success and see how visual communications can both help keep us safe and help us recover in hospital
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