Being a commercial illustrator has been a perfect career for me. I have gotten used to crazy deadlines and slow stretches. When I am not working on an assignment, I love creating music. I feel blessed to have the freedom to do what I love.
I enjoyed illustrating many new Tillamook yogurt labels this year. It was interesting to do two different coffee labels for their Stumptown Yogurt flavor. Initially, the client wanted a hot coffee illustration. Later on, I did a second illustration with an iced Stumptown coffee version.
I have gotten satisfaction from experiences in my career where there wasn’t any monetary compensation. This post is an example of that.
I receive a lot of emails regarding participating in publications and contests. There’s usually a hefty printing fee involved. When I was contacted to participate in dpi Magazine’s quarterly journal, I almost deleted the message. But I hesitated and decided to consider it. I’m glad I did!
Dear Judy Unger,
Hi, this is Pip, editor of dpi Magazine from Taiwan. Nice to contact you.
dpi magazine is preparing a quarterly about illustrative recipe and food illustration, we’re so impressed with your artwork. I’m writing to invite you to do an email-based interview with us. The interview is mainly about your food illustration artwork and your aesthetic concept.
Kindly let me know if you accept the invitation. If you do, I’ll send you the interview questions and instructions for uploading the images.
Our readers will be very excited for your participation! Thank you very much for your time. I’m looking forward to your reply.
I wrote back to Pip and asked him to explain what the interview involved and whether there was any monetary compensation if I agreed to it.
Pip explained that I would receive a layout preview before publication. My only compensation would be receiving a single copy of the quarterly once it was published.
I was a little apprehensive because I had to upload 15 high res images. What if this were a scam?
Sometimes, I just go with my gut. I decided this was something I’d go with. I received the interview questions and actually had fun answering them.
I share below my interview.
|Q1: Would you share something about yourself with us? Like your educational background, your homeland, your career, or anything you want to say.|
I received my Bachelor’s degree in art in 1981 and have been a professional artist ever since. In 2010, I discovered my love for music and currently my passion is to record my original songs. I like to write inspirational stories, too. I have gone through some tragedy in my life, but now I am a happier person because I have followed my dreams. My art career sustains me and I am blessed to have many wonderful clients I enjoy working with.
|Q2: What make(s) a great food illustration, depending on you? Is it the color, the composition, or anything else? What are your secrets to cook food illustrations?|
I always make sure I have good photographic reference to work from. I shoot my own photos and make the food look as good as possible. With my paintings, I enhance the colors and contrast.
I aim to please my clients by showing them many options before I do final artwork. Sometimes that adds up to dozens of layouts. Designing the composition is much easier since I switched from line drawings to color layouts done on my computer.
|Q3: What material, technique, or tools do you use when creating? Name their brands or specify their qualities if you have preferences.|
I create my layouts on my computer using Photoshop. I lightly print my layout onto Arches Hot Press 140 lb. watercolor paper. I paint with Dr. Martin’s Dyes and add details with colored pencils, and occasionally acrylics.
My earlier paintings did not have a printed layout to follow. I sketched my line drawing with tracing paper and transferred the sketch to my watercolor paper.
I used a plastic film called Frisket to mask areas I am painting. Frisket helps keep everything sharp and clean.
|Q4: What is the food illustration artwork you’ve ever done that makes you most proud? Could you tell us more about it?|
My favorite painting is of a Snicker’s candy bar. It won an award at the Illustration West Exhibition through the Society of Illustrators, Los Angeles in 1992. Being presented with that award was very exciting for me.
|Q5: Who are your clients, to name some?|
I have worked with a lot of food companies in the United States and my work also is sold by several stock agencies worldwide. For the last five years, I’ve done close to 100 illustrations for Tillamook Dairy Company. My illustrations are also on Wallaby Yogurt. Those labels won an award for the 2016 Graphis Design Annual Competition. ( http://www.graphis.com/entry/fda1782c-8bef-421b-a74c-8fabdf3ce823/)
|Q6: What are your tastes for foods? Do you have a favorite dish, or follow some special diet for any reason? Are you adventurous or conservative when ordering from a menu? Do you like exotic foods and which are?|
I love to eat and recently lost a lot of weight by cutting back on carbs. I eat a lot of protein, fruits, salads and vegetables. Nothing really exotic and I don’t eat bread anymore. I used to love cheese, chocolate and coffee. But I feel so wonderful and healthy now, so I’m not missing them as much.
|Q7: What’s the impression you want to give your audience by your food illustration?|
I am a passionate musician – I give my heart to my audience because I can share my feelings that way. But in the art realm, it’s different. My focus is to please only the art director and client. Hopefully, people will like my work – but it’s my job and not the same thing for me as composing and recording music.
|Q8: Do you taste the foods before illustrating them? Does their taste influence your works? How?|
I never taste my foods because I use all kinds of strange ways to make them look better. I will use glue instead of milk and recently used “fake ice cubes” for an iced coffee illustration. I do pick the best looking fruits I can, but always am grateful as an artist that I can fix things up to look as perfect as possible. I do like adding water droplets to make fruit more interesting and appealing. Corn syrup is a good tool to use for that!
|Q9: Do you enjoy cooking? Do you think there are some relation between being a good cook and a good food illustrator?|
I don’t think they are related – I do think it’s important to be a good food stylist. That’s different than being a good cook. It’s important to know how to compose what is being photographed.
As an illustrator, I am designing the painting to fit on a certain part of the label. Good reference is important, so sometimes I have to look in magazines or on the Internet for inspiration if my photos aren’t good enough. Recently, I bought a raspberry plant just so I could have good leaves to look at.
I cook occasionally. I have two sons that live with me and they love it when I cook for them!
|Part 2 Eat with illustrator|
|Please answer the following questions:|
|Q1: Where is your hometown? What’s the representative food there?|
|A1: I grew up in Los Angeles. There are many kinds of foods here – I can’t say what this city represents.|
|Q2: Where do you live now? Could you recommend your favorite restaurant there for us?|
|A2: I love Japanese Food. There’s a restaurant named Musashi that is in Northridge, CA. They have wonderful Teppan style cooking.|
|Q3: What’s your signature dish? Could you introduce it for us?|
|A3: My signature dish might be an omelet with sautéed mushrooms, onions and cheese.|
|Q4: What’s the most wonderful food you’ve ever tasted in your memory?|
|A4: I remember enjoying a wonderful chocolate walnut pie.|
When I received the quarterly a few months later, I was so glad I had participated. The printing was phenomenal and I was given a 8-page spread. I remember paying thousands of dollars for printed promotion.
This definitely was a fantastic opportunity to share my artwork.
Even though the interview wasn’t in English, I appreciated the lovely design layout incorporating my images. I share the pages below.