It has been a long time since we've been able to go and indulge ourselves in eating out, whether a three-part extravaganza in a special restaurant, or sitting in our favourite coffee spot for a croissant to fuel our productivity. As the world, and more specifically the UK went into lockdown, Courier Magazine released their "Food Issue", a carefully curated compilation of the most exciting new food and drink businesses around the globe, complete with profiles, photography, and business model breakdowns. As bittersweet as it is to read given the current volatile and in many cases downright impossible circumstances for the food industry to operate in, it still imbues hope for the future. Food and drink are the number one social activities, and when it tastes good, it reminds us that it's the crème de la crème for a reason.
For people who are lucky enough to afford it, this period has been an opportunity to make more homemade meals and improve our cooking skills. But during these times, food has taken a very central role in our lives, for better and for worse. Class divisions have been underlined, and donating whatever one can to food banks has increased in importance. And let's not forget, a great number of people and small, independent businesses in the food industry have suffered financially (let alone psychologically), and will need our support more than ever. In short, food is a luxury to be used and consumed with care, which is something this interview honours.
Anna Vu, former art director at "Gourmet Traveller" magazine, has since 2011 built herself an impressive food-based art empire. Her work has appeared in both illustrative and commercial formats, for Courier London or the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, or for food and wine webshops such as Barra or Plain Wine, overall bringing these still lives personality and desirability. Anna took the time to answer some questions about her work, favourite food spots around London, and a welcome breather from all the doom and gloom at the moment.
When did you start drawing seriously? (In other words, when did you realise it could become your craft/work?)
I started “goodfoodcrapdrawing” back in 2011, as a side project and a bit of fun whilst I was working as an art director for a food magazine. The work had gradually built up over the years, then cut to 2017 - I've quit my job, had just come back from a 3 month sabbatical in Berlin and thought - 'maybe I should get a freelance visa there and try drawing full time?' So I guess I've been drawing for 3 years, but even now, I still don't look at it as a 'serious job', I think I'm still trying to figure it all out.
What inspires you?
Eating a good meal, seeing and being able to taste the work that has gone into a great dish or a bottle of wine. Meeting and talking to other people in the hospitality industry, producers, winemakers. Travelling and being able to observe and experience the way other people eat in other cities is inspiring too.
What are the most difficult foods to draw?
Anything that involves minced meat or grains of rice! It's hard to get the right amount of detail in those dishes so that it doesn't all look like a total mess!
What do you enjoy about illustration? And what is it that makes you want to draw the food you love?
I enjoy not staring at a computer screen, for me drawing used to be a way to unwind after a day of work, so I'm lucky now that I get to do it as a means of work. And I love drawing the food I eat because it takes me back to that exact meal, the way it made me feel tasting it and the company I was with at the time. It's cheesy but I'm happiest when I'm eating and sharing it with the people I love and I like that drawing takes me back to those times.
What are your favourite food spots? (and what makes a good one for you?)
In London it would have to be Brawn, St John's, Flor and 40 Maltby St. A good spot has to have an interesting wine list, food that can be easily shared (tasty is a given) and just a place that you could just spend a whole afternoon or night in and feel comfortable.
Do you have a favourite piece of art (film, book, painting, etc) about food?
I have always been a fan of pop art and love the work of Claes Oldenburg, his piece titled "Giant BLT (Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich)" is a favourite and it's exactly what it says it is - a big sculpture of a BLT sandwich. So good.
What advice would you give freelancers?
I would say that if there are days where you're just unmotivated and don't want to work - that it's okay. Take the day off. As freelancers we can work any time, there are no prescribed working hours. We chose to be freelancers, so that we could choose our own hours.
What are other projects you have in the works that you’d like to share with the world?
There are constant projects that are rolling around in my head, that have not made it past the idea phase, that this year I'd like to get on top of! I'd like to organise another exhibition and perhaps get into more sculpture work - basically bringing “goodfoodcrapdrawing” into the 3D realm!