Posts Tagged ‘painting’


When I first saw Joël Penkman’s work, all kinds of superlatives came to mind: Incredible. Gorgeous. Exquisite. Amazing. Beautiful!




Many of her egg tempura on gesso board still life food paintings look so realistic you might easily mistake them for photographs. Originally from New Zealand, Joël now lives and works in the UK — Liverpool, England, to be exact.







She portrays her subjects on clean, neutral backgrounds to allow the viewer to bring his/her own context to the paintings. Food is by far her favorite subject, but she also enjoys graphically representing everyday objects inspired by British life.




Naturally I especially love her sweets, but I’m equally enamored of her food packaging subjects,










and her 100 teacups collection!






Recently, she was commissioned to paint 125 food items for Colman Andrews’s THE TASTE OF AMERICA (Phaidon Press, 2013). It’s wonderful to see familiar foods like hot dogs, avocados, bagels, and cherry tomatoes along with regional favorites like Old Bay Seasoning, Café du Monde Beignet Mix, Goo Goo Clusters, and Vermont Common Crackers. I also learned about quite a few brands I’d never seen before (Rancho Gordo Prepared Hominy, Graeter’s Ice Cream, Kim’s Pork Cracklings).













Since she likes to paint from real life models, these foods were sent to her across the pond. She said it felt like Christmas whenever a new shipment arrived. :)

For the literary minded, check out Joël’s collection of Fictional Food (yes, there’s Paddington’s favorite marmalade sandwiches!):

Holly Golightly's Breakfast

Holly Golightly’s Breakfast

Paddington's Marmalade Sandwiches

Paddington’s Marmalade Sandwiches

Snow White's Poison Apple

Snow White’s Poison Apple

Edmund's Turkish Delight

Edmund’s Turkish Delight

Indulge yourself even more by visiting Joël Penkman’s Official Website and Etsy Shop, where she sells both originals and giclée prints.




It’s easy to see why I’m such a big fan of Joël’s work. But there’s also this: when asked in an interview what she would take if her house was burning down, she said her cats, their 2 teddy bears and her laptop. You should have heard the cheers in the Alphabet Soup kitchen! We love an artist who’s got her priorities straight. :)




Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved. 

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It’s here, it’s finally here!

Happy Spring!

We must celebrate with what so many of us are craving after such a long hard winter: COLOR!

But why settle for plain blue when you can have indigo or blue moonshade? As for green, make mine Elysian. Let’s bask in the evocative names of colors and the flights of fancy they inspire. And yes, you may call me Sheba. :)

by Wendy Cope

Limeglow of leaves –
elf, sapling
in Elysian green,
she’s jitterbugging
in the forest.
She is froth, the tang
of julep, capering
among the ferns.
Passion, the firedance
of her fantasy,
fireglow of poppy
and corona, ember.
Casanova, peerless
demon, jester!
She burns, a firefly,
Apollo’s geisha.
Her sandgold hair,
spun silk kimono,
melon and lemon sorbet
on the balcony,
white wine, gardenias.
That honeysuckle year –
if he could ransom
one sunlit day!
Indigo seascape –
Melissa in cool,
blue moonshade.
Harebell, naiad,
exotic ballerina,
she commands the bay,
the midnight swell,
the surf, pale gossamer.
Autumnal in brogues,
beige twinset, russet
tweeds, she takes
coffee at eleven,
sherry at noon –
dreams of Tarragona,
castanets, a man
who called her Sheba.
Her mood
is violet, nocturnal.
Aubrietia, phlox,
wisteria delight her
more than roses.
Solitude, a purple
robe, a last
long hazy evening.

~ from If I Don’t Know (Faber & Faber, 2001).


Which shade of green should I use to paint my dining room — Barefoot in the Grass, Peaceful Garden, or Spring Has Sprung? Inspired by nature’s palette, we paint our rooms to bring the outdoors in. While I contemplate my choices, enjoy this floral bouquet plucked from Cope’s dreamscape. If you need me, I’ll be lounging in my purple robe sipping sherry. Come to think of it, I’ve always wanted a pair of castanets.


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“I would like to paint the way a bird sings.” ~ Claude Monet


Today, a mini feast celebrating Claude Monet. There are very few of us who are not enamored with Impressionist art, and as writers, artists, and poets, we know only too well the great joy and frustration that can define the creative process.

You probably know that Monet developed cataracts late in life that severely impaired his acute perception of colors and light, the very hallmarks of his work. His world took on a yellowish tinge, and his paintings gradually became more reddish and muddied, the familiar scenes he so luminously depicted before appearing almost unrecognizable.

Japanese Footbridge (1897)

In a letter to a friend he said, ” . . . my poor eyesight makes me see everything in a complete fog. It’s all very beautiful just the same and it’s this which I’d loved to have been able to convey.” When he could no longer trust his eyes, he carefully read the labels on paint tubes, kept a regular order of colors on his palette, and painted from memory.

Japanese Footbridge (1920-1922)

Lisel Mueller’s poignant “Monet Refuses the Operation” is a beautiful testament to the mind’s eye, an inspiring philosophy, an artist’s credo, a passionate affirmation for all creatives: there’s more than one way of seeing.


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Not too long ago, I was innocently browsing online when a jar of Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves spoke to me:

Don’t you love my beautiful lines and shading? Look at my luscious rosy watercolors, my checkered lid. Do I not stand out from the hundreds of food illustrations you see every day?

The jam was spreading it on thick, but it had a good point. There was something pure and serene about its singular beauty. Detailed and realistic, it had that charming handmade quality I always fall for.

“Bonne Maman” is by Boston-based artist, illustrator and graphic designer Kendyll Hillegas, whose work “focuses on capturing the emotional and narrative significance of food and everyday objects.” Using a combination of colored pencil, gouache, and ink, she creates a delectable world of ooey gooey cakes, cheery popsicles, tempting doughnuts, cupcakes, and reach-out-and-bite-me muffins, breads, and bagels.

She invites us to appreciate anew the pleasing design of a bottle of San Pellegrino or Heinz Ketchup, the rumpled comfort of a bag of King Arthur Unbleached Flour. A bowl of soup, a stack of pancakes, a double scoop ice cream cone — we all have emotional connections to these familiar foods and like to hear and share good stories about them.



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“Surely a pretty woman never looks prettier than when making tea.” ~ Mary Elizabeth Braden (Lady Audley’s Secret)

“Tea” (George Dunlop Leslie, 1894)

I’ve been having fun looking at late 19th and early 20th century paintings depicting people drinking or serving tea. Most of the subjects are beautifully decked-out, in-the-garden or fancy-sitting-room women who seem to have all the time in the world.

I love imagining their intimate conversations — secrets shared, pride in their children, juicy gossip. I also like the women taking tea alone in quiet contemplation, and covet the lovely tea sets and table settings.

“The Tea Set” (Claude Monet, 1872)

I had to look harder for male subjects, since when it comes to tea drinking in fine art, women reign supreme. What would the great artists of the world do without us to sit for them? It’s not easy lounging about and looking gorgeous all the time. :)

Hope you enjoy these different settings, social and cultural contexts, and thinking about how the ritual of sharing tea fosters a special brand of intimacy. It’s always fascinating to try to read different personalities via facial expressions and posturing. Since there are so many good tea paintings out there, it was hard to pick just 40. Each of these tells a wonderful story.

“At the Tea Table” (Konstantin Korovin, 1888)


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