• Food illustration by Anna Keville Joyce. (Agustín Nieto)Source: Agustín Nieto
From cucumber clouds to fruit loop feathers, food stylist and illustrator Anna Keville Joyce is an expert at forming art from everyday ingredients. We chat to the Buenos Aires-based creative in this month’s Fringe Foodies column about how she forged a profession from playing with the food on her plate.
By
Fringe Foodies

2 Oct 2015 - 12:18 PM  UPDATED 19 Oct 2015 - 10:37 AM

Anna Keville Joyce might work under the guise of food stylist and food illustrator, but we think ‘Children’s champion’ is equally apt. Trained in design, style and, interestingly, anthropology, the American, whose work can be found here, has built a career in a discipline most parents dread: playing with the food on her plate. Truth be told, Joyce’s vocation isn’t all that unusual when you consider her family background – both of her parents are artists and her mother, Cynthya Waltho, also works as a food stylist when she’s not painting pickles, olives and other edible things.

With an eye for aesthetics and an understanding of ingredients’ colours, textures and rates of decay, Joyce portrays landscapes, monuments and members of the bird family – her avian series entitled “A Tribute to Budgie” was sparked after the death of her beloved pet. Here she chats creative processes, getting the most out of grapes and what happens to the artworks when the cameras go off. Plus, Joyce shares an easy avocado appetiser

 

It seems like you’ve come from quite a creative family... I’m grateful to come from a family of creative and curious minds. My parents are both artists – graphic design, art direction, painting and food styling. They taught me to try, to experience, and to have freedom of mind, along with a little sparkle in my eye. My mother and I are both food stylists by profession, which is to say that we create food for commercial photography and film.

What draws you to the medium? Food is dynamic; it’s not drawing, where you can erase, and it’s not oil paint, which patiently waits for you to come back and retouch.

It’s the five minutes you have with raw, transparent cucumber flesh before it dries out or turns brown, to see if you can get it to express streaky, wispy clouds.

Did you spend a lot of time dismantling your dinner as a kid? I don’t think I was ever told not to play with my food as a child, at least from what I remember. I didn’t dismantle the majority of my meals, but I suppose I did express a interest in culinary creativity. When I was still too young to write, I created grocery lists for my mom with (indiscernible) drawings of the grocery items, and I would go behind her checking off my list.  

“For my birthday once a year my mum would let me into her herb and spice collection to make what I called “the witch’s brew”, a disgusting but imaginative mix of water, food colouring, herbs and spices.” 

Your work – be it a landscape, animal portrait or still life – is incredibly meticulous. What does your drafting’ stage look like – pen and paper or a pile of food scraps? I bring the concepts together little by little. I gather references and I collect interesting details, like horizontal mushrooms growing on tree trunks, then I make a draft drawing incorporating my favourite aspects and concepts. I buy a lot more than I what I end up using, but it’s like needing a diverse colour palette for painting. You don’t use every colour, but you need the options. The real creative process happens on the spot when I’m creating the final food illustration.

Which are your favourite ingredients to work with? I typically have a very fixed idea of the sensations I want to communicate through my illustrations, then I search for the ingredients that realise it. It’s a very intentional process involving lot of trial and error. For instance, I’ve found sunflower seeds are very expressive, as are eggs whites and eggs yolks, while peeled grapes can produce the sensation of water.

You obviously spend a lot of time around food, but what are you like in the kitchen? Yes, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, both for work and for pleasure. Cooking delights me, especially when I’m experimenting. In my commercial food styling work, there are often strange leftovers, like 10 pounds of leftover plum tomatoes, so it’s an interesting challenge to use them. 

Anna's favourite fast food idea
Avocado appetiser

“This easy recipe (really it’s more of a food idea…) is one I love to use. Like my food illustrations, it's a creative twist on an everyday food. It's great as an appetiser, snack or for breakfast.” Anna Keville Joyce, Food stylist and illustrator 

I’m curious, with your anthropological background how do you view the intersection between human culture and food culture? Anthropology is a beautiful way to appreciate the human in everything, and to understand that across countries and across cultures we all share a few basic, sacred needs.  One of which is food. Inside and outside of the workplace, food is an ever-present excuse to gather together and enjoy good company, which is especially prominent in Latin cultures such as Argentina where I live.  

Food illustration by Anna Keville Joyce.

Who inspires you? I look up to the creatives I have around me – the musicians, the dancers, the painters, the creative directors, the photographers, the calligraphers and the choreographers. Those who become lost in their medium. Those who communicate, with or without words. Those who make jokes on reality. Those who are sincere, surprising and searching.

You’ve created a flamingo, duck, owl, and pecking bird among others, what draws you to the avian form? The first food illustrations I created were part of a series entitled “A Tribute to Budgie”, based on different types of birds. The title of the series came from a bird I had, named Budgie. It was a personal project – an artistic meditation and mourning for a loss I experienced. There was no client, and no expectations, in that project, I was truly me.

“The process taught me the difference between work and art, and the capacity for art to heal and to redeem. I believe that all experiences, even grief, can take shape and create something new and beautiful.”

One last question, what happens to the food illustrations after theyve been photographed? I always leave them intact to “let them die”, as I say. I never throw them away directly. Sometimes I regret that when it turns out impossible to remove dried pumpkin flesh from a marble surface, but in the same way it takes time to create the pieces I feel that they should have time to “die” as well. Though it can be sad to throw out the illustrations, I love that aspect of my work, both in illustration and commercial food styling – it’s a reminder to enjoy and appreciate everything in its moment, and then move on. I throw out my illustrations with a smile, and I look forward to the next one. 

Food illustration by Anna Keville Joyce.

Fringe Foodies Editor Siobhan Hegarty

 

In our monthly blog, Fringe Foodies, we interview creatives, artists, designers, writers and poets about their affinity with all things edible. From the printed page to sculptures and soundwaves, we discover the myriad ways food can be created, celebrated and consumed.