Anna Vu’s drawings are hardly crap. In fact, they’re about to hang in Create or Die Gallery in Marrickville as a part of the For The Face group exhibition, opening this Thursday.
“When I first started doing them, they were actually crap,” says Vu of her illustrations that depict meals she’s eaten in Australia and abroad. “They were really quick, crude drawings. And they were crap.”
The Sydney native documents her food adventures in her spare time on her blog Good Food Crap Drawing, while her working hours are spent “designing layouts, booking photo shoots and looking at pictures of food” as the art director for Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine.
Vu’s art first appeared as her entry into the MCA Zine Fair in 2011. She uploaded the drawings that made up her zine, 20 Meals in NYC, online and a cult following quickly amassed.
“I don’t really plan it. Eating out is something I love and already do,” Vu says. “I go to a restaurant; I take a shot on my iPhone; and then I eat the meal. I won’t draw it unless I really liked it.”
The blog includes drawings of Bourke Street Bakery’s pork-and-fennel sausage roll and Rockpool’s braised pig’s head. There are also drawings from her time living in NYC and travelling abroad. Mission Chinese Food is in there, and so is Momofuku Ko’s 17-course degustation. Or, what she can remember of it.
“You weren’t allowed to take photos,” says Vu. “I went to the bathroom and I wrote down the dishes just so I could remember them for later.”
The artist – who studied a Bachelor of Design majoring in Ceramics, Textiles and Environments at COFA – uses Connector Pens and a felt-tip pen for all her pieces. “I always studied art in school and at uni, but I never really drew, which was weird,” says Vu. Her chosen tools come from a childhood appreciation for the Faber Castell classics, but Vu has experimented with other artistic instruments. “I’d never been able to find a really good colour for bacon. So in Japan, I bought six Copic Markers. They’re my ‘professional’ markers.”
There’s no pencil outline or Wite-Out if she ventures outside the lines. “I still try and keep it spontaneous. I don’t sit there and draw it out and trace over it,” she says. “It’s the first-take.”
Though some dishes are easier than others to illustrate, drawing intricate, colourless or dark, meaty dishes is a challenge. “I’ve always said it’s really hard to draw minced meat and make that look good. And I’m a big protein person,” says Vu. “But I think that’s the point; it doesn’t have to look pretty.”
Vu’s nine new pieces at For The Face are gorgeous. “It’s been a different way of drawing. I’ve put more thought into it; made sure I’ve been colouring in the lines,” says Vu.
Exhibition curator Kim Siew, of Akisiew Illustrations, says that Vu’s art is all about the relatability. “You go on these journeys with food with her and you think, ‘Oh yeah, I've been to Ester, I ate that’. That sense of connection is what everyone wants. And food is all about that,” says Siew. “To think that you can do that with people you have never seen or met now because of the internet, iPhones, Instagram; why not use it to share art?”
Vu likes the sound of that.
“If I could make a career out of this, that would be amazing,” says Vu. “It was always for fun and a bit of a laugh. I think I must have just called them Crap Drawings so as not to put pressure on myself; to just draw and have fun with it. It’s nice to now do the drawings and kind of be proud of it.”
For The Face is showing at Create or Die at 10 Mitchell Street in Marrickville from Thursday October 8 until Sunday 11 October. Cake Wines and Willie the Boatman are sponsoring opening night, and Kristen Allan and Black Star Pastry are providing bread and cheese.