My first DPI interview: #54 INTERVIEW WITH A FOOD ARTIST – PART 1

I am very excited that my second interview with DPI Magazine in Taiwan has been published. I will share the English translation with this post.


1. Hello Judy Unger! Since in 2017, we’ve had an email-based interview with you for the Art Quarter vol.16 (Tempting Food Illustrations: An overwhelming banquet for the senses), we are so curious about your recent life! Please share it with us.

It is wonderful to have another opportunity to share my life and art with you. Thank you again for contacting me.

Since 2017, I have continued to explore my passion for music. That same year, my meditation album was featured on the app Insight Timer,” the largest free mediation app in the world. I am a teacher on Insight Timer and share my music through two courses, 46 tracks and weekly live performances. My main instrument is acoustic guitar, and I consider my genre of music to be healing.

My art career has been slow, but I still receive an occasional commercial assignment. Recently, I’ve enjoyed illustrating elaborate fruit labels for 1800 Margarita Mixes.

Last summer during the pandemic, I decided to expand my stock library and kept myself busy painting new art. After years of being somewhat disconnected from illustrating, I began to prolifically paint new images. I still work traditionally with watercolor dyes and colored pencils. But I’ve also learned to incorporate many digital shortcuts. Once I scan my finished painting, I digitally manipulate it to create alternate versions. Currently, I have about 800 images on iStock and Getty, partner companies.

2. We know that your most recent painting is named “Autumn Leaf Medley.” As you said, painting autumn leaves was something you have done before. What drives you to refocus this theme again? What’s the biggest difference between painting fruits and leaves for you?

Thank you for mentioning my “Autumn Leaf Medley” painting. I was drawn to paint this theme because the fall variations of leaf colors captivated me. I wanted to portray their beauty, just as I would for any fruit or vegetable.

I have a newer painting named “Camellias in Bloom.” My camellias and autumn leaves are fully rendered. This is in contrast to my fruit and vegetable paintings that float upon a white background. Lush paintings that fill every inch require considerably more time. I use frisket to mask and keep areas separate and clean. Below are two other paintings that are fully rendered.

I appreciate high contrast in my paintings. I will compare areas to see relationships of contrast. A leaf might look dark enough, but when an area next to it is filled in with a deeper tone, the leaf becomes lighter.

The exploration of color and texture is a delight with every painting. Texture is a “puzzle to solve” and is achieved for me using many inventive techniques. I will sometimes use Prismacolor pencils to delineate details before painting, as well as after. An eraser is often used to smooth things over. Liquid frisket is useful for lighter areas of texture. I apply it with a toothpick, a toothbrush or a quill for fine lines.

The transparency of watercolor allows me to create interesting color combinations. Even muted colors involve many washes of brilliant transparent dyes to create rich tones.

3. When creating, do you have any ritual or odd habits? What do you value most in the process?

If I could describe a ritual element, it would be my fascination with water droplets and moisture. They are in most of my paintings and fascinate me. I am always discovering new and interesting ways to portray those jewels. Whether they are running down the side of a fruit or pooling on a leaf, every droplet is precious.

What I value most about my current technical process is how I’ve incorporated using the computer. It saves me significant time, so I can focus upon the colors and textures in my painting. The digital process has been invaluable and incredibly efficient for creating reference layouts.In the past, I always worked from photo reference. However, those photos couldn’t be easily manipulated. I used to make color copies and laboriously cut and pasted together my layouts.

I would trace my photo reference and then meticulously transfer the drawing to my watercolor paper using graphite paper. It was tedious. I couldn’t know ahead of time how it might come together. Now I am able to pre-plan on my computer and solve all the compositional, contrast and color issues there. I utilize my own photography, and after combining and refining many photos, I print out a reference image to look at while painting. Then I print a very light version of it onto my actual watercolor paper to save the step of tracing and transferring outlines.

I usually draw upon my frisket film to indicate where to cut each petal and droplet.

4. How would you describe your style of artworks? Please select one of your most satisfying works and introduce it to us.

 My work has always been photo-realistic, but I must say it has gradually become even more so. Still, my technique is apparent when areas are enlarged – the watercolor/dye is very vibrant!

Sometimes I refer to my work as “idealistic.” The objects are ideal because I usually remove flaws. But there are times when those flaws add to the realism and beauty. I never want anything to be so perfect that it is no longer appetizing.

My most satisfying work is usually my most recent painting. So right now, that would be “Camellias in Bloom.”

But if I had to name a satisfying older painting, it would be “Perfume Medley.” Illustrating reflective glass objects presented challenges, and it was different for me to explore a non-food subject. This illustration was done before my digital awakening, and I cut up several photos when designing it. I was very inspired by the beautiful bottles of my mother’s perfume collection resting on a mirrored tray. And during the painting process, I discovered myself holding the camera in one of the reflections, which was truly amazing!

5. Give us three of your favorite/ most inspiring things right now. Could be a book, a food, a destination, a song, a person, etc.

The first thing that comes to mind are my three living children. They are the lights in my life, and I treasure each child. My deceased son, Jason, also lights the way for me and he lives on in my music and songs.

My music brings me joy, and I am blessed to have composed so many songs. I am especially inspired because for many decades I lived a sad and numb existence without music. But all of that changed in 2010 when I began to sing again.I am very inspired by my song Beside Me Always.” I love the piano meditation version and published a book with that name that shares the rediscovery of music and my personal transformation. I wrote my song when I was 17 years old and even read the words at Jason’s funeral in 1992. I never expected that it would carry so much significance later in my life.

I’m grateful for my art career and appreciate the shift into creating art for pleasure. I’ve definitely taken stock of my art and life. For thirty years, I was pleasing other people with my art, and now I’m enjoying pleasing myself!

6. In the end, do you have any ongoing plans or new exhibitions in the future?

I’ve never had exhibitions as a commercial artist, but I would be gratified to consider one. I have signed all of my work and have many boxes of originals. However, much of my art is not meant to be displayed. Dyes are fine for reproduction, but unfortunately they are not colorfast.

I have a lot of dreams, and I am enjoying my journey. My stock image library provides some revenue. I don’t worry too much about financial success – I am fine with the simple lifestyle that I’ve chosen. My joy is simply to have the freedom to explore my creativity and share my heart with the world.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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  1. Belinda O says:

    Fantastic interview, Judy! Your food drawings made me hungry. I’m not kidding! I’m sitting here dreaming of shish kebobs right now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Judy says:

      Awww, thanks, Belinda! The recipe I found was so easy and I was making them every week. The next day, they were even good cold or mixed into scrambled eggs. Happy to send you the marinade recipe!
      And I appreciate that you read the interview. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Belinda O says:

        Yes, do send me the marinade recipe! If it’s easier go through the comments page on my blog.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Judy says:

        I actually was buying a huge amount of soy sauce because I went through so much of it! For the oil, I used olive oil (and a bit less). I also had fun with the ingredients, sometimes adding pineapples. I’ll share a photo that I worked from. It was a challenge to isolate my painting without the grill!


      • Judy says:

        I bought both sticks and metal skewers. I always make a couple of kebobs for my favorite neighbors! Here’s the photo I mentioned:

        Liked by 1 person

      • Belinda O says:

        Thank you! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • Judy says:

        I usually marinate them around lunchtime and then it takes a while to skewer everything a few hours later. It’s actually kind of relaxing and fun!


  2. kegarland says:

    Congratulations on tis interview Judy! It’s also odd that that butterfly is one that continues to resurface in my consciousness. It was a pleasant surprise to see you’ve painted one!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Judy says:

      Thank you so much, Katherin! I actually painted that for a song cover on Insight Timer. I added a photographic background and I don’t think anyone can tell the moth is illustrated. The difference between a moth and a butterfly I believe is the antennae. When they’re feathery it’s a moth! But both speak to the beauty of wings and that’s why it was perfect for my song medley! Here’s a link to see that cover.


      Liked by 2 people

      • kegarland says:

        I’m quite certain no one knows that cover is illustrated, unless you tell them. That’s the beauty of your work!

        I learned the difference not long ago, but I can never remember what it is. You’re probably right.

        Liked by 1 person

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