The Food Illustrator Project by David Meldrum

At The Foodie Bugle we are always interested in looking at the various ways in which food, its packaging, advertising and labelling affects us, inspires us, captivates us, and ultimately ensnares us into a purchase. When we read about David Meldrum’s Food Illustrator project we were, quite simply, bowled over with the whole concept, its execution and its far reaching influence.

Since graduating from the Camberwell School of Art, David has carved a successful career as an illustrator and a graphic designer, exhibiting all over the world and winning prestigious awards. His interest in the typography, advertising and signage of food and its purveyors led him to embark on a very public and time-committing venture, to illustrate, in full colour, everything he ate and drank for 365 days of the year. The culmination of this project will be an exhibition at Arch 402 Gallery in Hoxton, from 20th June 2011. If you would like to be invited to the private viewing, on 21st June 2011, then e-mail [email protected]. The proceeds from the exhibition will help raise funds for Motor Neurone disease.

The Food Illustrator Project by David Meldrum

My work has featured in numerous books, publications and magazines.  I have exhibited widely in galleries across Europe and America, including Christies Contemporary Art and the Medici Gallery in London. I also lecture in graphic design, and in 2001 received the D & AD (British Design and Art Direction) prestigious gold award. After illustrating many food-related articles, I became fascinated in how food is represented in the world around us; from photography in magazines and advertising campaigns, through to the eclectic nature of food signage in our high streets, created by both professional sign writers and the untrained, yet eager, amateur.

As a keen collector of advertising ephemera with a passion for reportage drawing, I view The Food Illustrator project not only as a record of what I consume, but also a historical record of today’s packaging and typography.

I have always kept a sketch book as a way of keeping a personal, historical reference of life, both inside and outside of the home – recording events, situations, and anything that catches my eye.

Reflecting back on my sketch book work, I noticed a running theme of food & packaging related drawings, figuring this self-set project could be an interesting record for myself & generations to come, not only of what I eat, but the packaging and typography attached to it, combining my interest in both graphic design and illustration. Working as a graphic designer, accuracy and precision when using text and image are paramount, as are deadlines, of course. This project allows me freedom of expression and interpretation, where I set my own rules on content and timescales.

Each illustration is A3 in size and can take from 1 to 2 hours to complete, depending on how much has been consumed. I work in mixed media – acrylic, watercolour, collage and pen and ink. I work in the evening and at weekends. It is a very demanding project on top of a full time job and busy family life and I am looking forward to being able to spend more time with my family after the completion date.  On occasions I get days behind schedule so weekends can be filled with catching up if I miss out on working on my illustrations when away from home or out for the evening.  When eating out I document my diet on a digital camera and reference the drawings from the uploaded photographs on my laptop.

The more exposure I have been getting the more conscious I am of what I am eating and also how I could be perceived. I did wonder whether by drawing my diet if it would alter my eating habits, as after studying the packaging closely, I have become more aware of the fat, salt and calorie content of the products. As yet my eating habits have not changed dramatically but I have noticed that the small Cadbury ‘Freddo’ chocolate bar, seems to make a regular appearance!

I find myself choosing between certain products by the design of their packaging.  For example, recently I selected a particular brand of ham because of the pig illustration on the pack. I am naturally drawn to packaging with photographic images so that I can re-create and collage them and in doing so incorporate them in my work.

Doing such a public project I have received numerous comments from various sources. Some people have congratulated me on my honesty as some of their eating patterns and habits relate to mine. A restaurant in East London recently invited me to eat with them and then illustrate the dishes, so that they could become part of the project. This was great fun and is something I would love to do more of.

The Food Illustrator project will conclude with an exhibition in June 2011 at Arch 402 Gallery in London, where all 365 original illustrations will be exhibited and for sale.There will also be available signed, limited edition prints of some of my favourite drawings from each month. I am also putting together a series of lectures that will be touring nationally to art colleges and universities discussing my approach to food illustration, sketchbooks and journals and how food is represented around us.

At this stage I am not entirely certain what will be coming next after the completion of this project, but it would be unusual if I did not have a new and exciting venture in progress.  As always I will be keeping an up-to-date sketch book. With the interest that the project has generated both in Europe and the US, I do like the idea of the food theme continuing. Who knows, maybe I could become an artist in residence for a food brand. I will keep The Foodie Bugle posted on my news!

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