from How to Boil and Egg
with illustration by Fiona Strickland
Art and food - never the twain shall meet, according to some. When I thought about starting this blog I felt sure it would not be long before someone uttered the the words "what has food got to do with art?" When it happened - and it took only one posting to trigger it - I stuck to my resolve to answer by a dozen postings. I hope these have gone some way to convincing readers that food has a lot to do with art.
A battered tin-glazed 18th century earthenware dish was my starting point. A flat-bottomed Char Pot, hand-painted with naive representations of fish in grey, red and manganese-purple, specifically produced to contain a delicacy - potted char. With the art of photography there were so many options but I chose to write Tintype Tomatoes, struck by the way the Tintype process points up the sheer beauty of food whilst playing with our perceptions of what we are looking at. I chose a painting of Three Pears by Paul Cézanne from a glorious roomful of his works at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Azulejos to Bacalhau was the subject of my ninth posting. The tiles of the Portuguese cozinha catching my attention at Lisbon's Museu Nacional do Azulejo. Food illustration inspired November's posting A Dish of Apples. An appreciation of the work of Patricia Curtan, whose simple monochrome line drawings and colourful studies of fruit and vegetables sometimes burst the boundaries of their drawn frame.
So, to my twelfth Dish. Fiona Strickland studied Drawing and Painting at Edinburgh College of Art where she received a travelling scholarship to Italy and France. She is a member of The Society of Botanical Artists, an RHS Gold Medallist and a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists. Surprisingly, it wasn't until 2008 that she made her first submission to The Society of Botanical Artists' Annual Exhibition. Awards quickly followed and her botanical paintings grace many specialist and private collections. Capturing the vibrancy of colour and detail are key elements in Fiona Strickland's work. She has a passion for painting plants and flowers at all stages of their growth, seeing beauty as much in their decay as when in full bloom. Having spent most of her adult life teaching, she now concentrates on her botanical painting. Except, now she has made an intriguing diversion into food illustration.
In 2013 she accepted the challenge to produce 43 hand-painted illustrations for Rose Carrarini's second book, How to Boil an Egg. Co-founder of Anglo-French bakery and restaurant Rose Bakery in Paris, the self-taught Carrarini has never been one to follow the herd and her choice of Fiona Strickland must have intrigued the artist as much as it did me. The project provided some new challenges for the artist and the results are all the more remarkable because her source material was mostly 2-D photographs of the finished dishes. Her usual choice of transparent Winsor & Newton watercolour mixes for her botanical paintings couldn't achieve the required effect. Different painting techniques had to be explored, including the use of opaque watercolour mixes and a lighter weight of paper. Shades of white had to be painted-in rather than Strickland's usual technique of allowing the white of the paper to shine through colour to provide highlight and contrast. The results are, mostly, astonishing. From the moist crumb and sticky glaze of Purple Corn and Blueberry Cake, to a luscious dish of caramel-drizzled îles Flottantes, you can't quite believe what you are seeing. My favourite illustration, perhaps, accompanies a recipe for Egg in the Middle where the crispness of the fried bread and the just-cooked egg are so perfect you want to reach for a knife and fork.
Here's a taster from the book.
Green Fried Eggs
150-225g (5-8 oz) spinach, coarse stalks removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Add the spinach to a pan of boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain, squeeze out the excess moisture and spread the spinach out on a plate.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over low to medium heat.
Break the eggs into the pan and cook gently for 1 minute. Sprinkle the parsley over the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and cook for about 1 minute more to allow the herbs and eggs to steam together until the eggs whites have set.
Lift out the eggs and place on top of the spinach to serve.
The Society of Botanical Artists
Jonathan Cooper Gallery
Fiona Strickland D.A. (Edin) S.B.A. G.M.
How to Boil an Egg by Rose Carrarini - published by Phaidon
I hope this one year project Take One Dish has convinced at least some people that food and art belong on the same Dish. This is the 12th and final posting in the series but the blog will continue to be available and I may return to the subject at a later date. I hope you've enjoyed the postings as much as I've enjoyed researching and writing them. Thanks for reading.