Cooking Up Art: Gnocchi

Some time ago, when I was trying to figure out what to draw next, I Googled “art class prompts” to generate some ideas. I have to give credit to The Art of Ed for the idea that excited me the most: “Draw the ingredients or process of your favorite recipe.” I love to cook (and eat!), so this seemed like a perfect way to combine some of my interests into a cool art piece. If I’m in the mood, I may continue this as a little series over time.

I was also partially inspired by the playful, stylized yet realistic art of Wendy MacNaughton for Samin Nosrat’s book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Come to think of it, that word—stylized–may have been exactly what I meant when I said I was aiming for “illustration” in an earlier post.

One recipe I have been enjoying lately is gnocchi with mushrooms in white wine sauce. I have been leaving out the basil and liking it just fine, so I decided to omit it from my drawing.

I started out approaching the drawing purely from a perspective of having fun. I wanted vibrant colors, so I used heavy pressure on my colored pencils instead of layering, and I didn’t worry about things like shading/ shadows and getting shapes perfect. I didn’t use any reference items or images. This is what I came up with:


I found this version to be eye-catching, because of the bright colors, but not quite as realistic as I wanted. So I produced a second version, using a real colander to help me suggest areas of highlight.


To be honest, they are not drastically different drawings. I actually can’t decide which one I prefer, because the slightly more simplistic nature of the first one kind of appeals to me.

But these days the real question around here is: Is this an illustration? It does capture an idea—that of a recipe, if you consider that to count as a “concept”—but it also has the properties of a still life. What do you think?

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