Delicious in more ways than one is the culinary creations Alison Soye whips up from her watercolours. Her latest project, a visual recipe book that is student friendly, sensationally coloured and cheekily scripted, almost smells good enough for the pot. She’s a creative mix of many influences, having grown up in Rhwanda, lived in Malawi, studied in Scotland and she hails from Ireland. The impression of a varied cross cultural life has left its mark on her artistic expression; it’s as vivid and diverse as the places she’s been. Tucking a degree in illustration under her belt this year is only the first of many exciting ventures on the horizon.
Alison! Hello. Lovely to be chatting. It’s exciting to see what’s brewing for you at the moment. What first inspired your decision to make a recipe book?
Well, firstly I love food, and love drawing it! I really wanted to take my own experience as a gluten-free eater and create a cookbook to guide young people newly diagnosed with Coeliac Disease or gluten intolerance, revealing dishes that can be made easily from scratch. I ultimately want to help ease the daunting transition of starting a gluten and wheat-free diet for those who are totally clueless (like I was at first) and give them optimism surrounding what kind of food they can now eat.
And how did you go about creating your from-scratch creations?
Over a period of a few weeks I kept a sketchbook and collected different recipes that I liked, trying each one out and photographing/drawing the process and result. I also did some research into fantastic food illustrators such as Felicita Sala and Emma Dibben – I cannot get enough of their work! After picking out about 12 recipes I liked and adapted slightly, I then set about drawing and painting the food items required for each recipe, laying them out on a page and adding hand-drawn type around them.
Your absolute favourite one?
Definitely the Mediterranean Chicken Casserole – it was one of the first recipes I learnt after being diagnosed and it not only proved the most delicious tasting dish I’ve ever made, but also really healthy and colourful (both in the book and on the plate!)
You use a beautiful spread of watercolours and quirky fonts. How did you go about honing and developing your creative style?
Practice is crucial for me – I really notice my work improves after a notable time spent drawing, painting and experimenting. I also spend a lot of time researching and looking at other illustrators work, Instagram is helpful for leading you to brilliant artists and illustrator’s websites. Whenever I see a style or font that I think works well, I immediately want to try it out for myself! People’s reactions to work also help gauge what is particularly effective or not, and advice from classmates, tutors, friends and family is really valuable in knowing where my creative strengths lie and what to focus on improving.
What originally drew you to illustration over other artistic mediums?
The range of processes and mediums that illustration encapsulates are endless: ceramics, glass making, photography, animation, printmaking, painting, model-making – the freedom of experimentation and the opportunity to focus on any medium is what first attracted me to go down the illustration route at university. I also love the narratives to illustrative pieces- how they tell a story and that the emphasis is on the concept as well as the image making. Being able to report on all kinds of subjects using illustration as a medium excites me and I like the idea of nudging a person into thinking deeper about a subject or person revealed to them through this way.
What do you hope for your artistic career in the future?
I want to be able to develop my illustrative skills further through practice, projects and travelling. I’m particularly interested in visual reportage, photography, food illustration and certain international charity’s uses of art and craft as a way to promote sustainable living in developing countries. That’s a pretty wide range of interests so who knows where I could go or what I could end up doing!