Food stylist and artist Anna Keville Joyce paints beautiful images of scenery, animals and objects with a twist that makes her work stand out – they are created entirely from food. Sunflower seeds, cucumber, noodles, fruits and herbs are some of the things on her extensive palette that are painstakingly manipulated. We caught up with Anna for an insight into her unique art form.
When did you start making food art?
Food is what I understand best – I know how it moves, how it responds, how to make it last, its color hues, and when it’s going to shrivel and die on me. It’s my favorite medium.
It started as a personal project, which was my first food illustration series entitled “A Tribute to Budgie”, and then slowly became a prominent part of my work and artistic expression.
What drew you towards making food art?
Food is dynamic, which is what I like most. It’s only a short moment when everything comes together. A moment before or a moment after just isn’t quite right. 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 5 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.
What inspires the imagery that you create?
I think the best food artworks are in essence a celebration and a meditation. When I have a concept that interests me, either as a commissioned piece or as a personal project, I dive into it and gather many many references, primarily visual, but also sounds, smells, tastes, literature or textures.
I soak in those for a while until I can distill my favorite pieces. With those, I create my drafts and final projects, highlighting and celebrating each one. I also get inspiration and ideas from my frequent and vivid dreams.
Could you walk us through the process of creating one of your pieces?
For my projects I bring the concepts together little by little. I do a large reference search and collect interesting details, like horizontal mushrooms growing on tree trunks or knobby flamingo knees. From there, I start to develop different options and possibilities, and I make a draft drawing incorporating my favorite aspects.
After that I just sit on the concepts for a while, meditating on them and seeing what other ideas pop up. Then I start to narrow in and create a final draft. I do all of the ingredient purchasing based on what I think will work, and then whatever food element that seems interesting.
I buy a lot more than I what I end up using, but it’s like needing a diverse color palette for painting – you don’t use every color, but you need the options.
Then, since it’s food, I have to create the pieces within a few hours. I start with the longest lasting ingredient (hopefully!) and work my way backward to the most delicate. Food art is time-sensitive, but it’s equally as important to not rush.
What are your favorite materials to work with?
Sunflower seeds are very expressive, as are eggs whites and eggs yolks, surprisingly. I like to work with the fleshy parts of different fruits and vegetables, making them less distinguishable but giving different textures and colors that are unexpected.
Which has been your favorite project or piece and why?
My favorite project is the food illustration series entitled “A Tribute to Budgie.” It was a personal project, and it was my artistic meditation and mourning for a loss I experienced. In that project I was truly me.
There was no client, and no expectations. It was a series of quiet moments and a process that taught me the difference between work and art, and the capacity of art to heal and to redeem. I believe that all experiences, even grief, can take shape and create sometime new and beautiful.
What has been the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Luck favors the bold.
What is next for you?
I’ve started moving towards large-scale projects, and I’m particularly interested in food art installations, being both artistic presentations as well as interactive installations where participants view the food artwork and also eat from it.
I’m also looking to create a new series, perhaps both as photo and film, that calls to my anthropology background, going around the world to create different food art pieces which celebrate the food, culture, and aesthetics of different countries.