Wish you knew enough Italian to indulge in the wondrous Naples cuisine? Or you can’t cook, and you want to learn more? You don’t have to read through recipes and wonder if the outcome will taste right – it’ll take a glance at colourful, beautiful illustrations of Chiara di Francia to discover the secrets of simple and delicious meals. We speak to her about her career as a designer and illustrator, and discuss her recipe book that consists only of illustrations.
Chiara, an illustrator from Italy, came up with Drawing Recipes last summer, when she was preparing a meal for her five-year-old cousin. He’s tasted some freshly made snacks and asked her if she could write a
“Immediately, the first thought was to draw it. It was a very simple recipe, and since he was very young I thought that he would have appreciated it. The drawing had to completely replace the text so that all the steps were clear and recognisable,” she explains. “While I was drawing I started thinking about the project. I wanted to make very simple and synthetic illustrations, the recipes had to be quick to see while you are cooking.”
The first recipes that she drew were those that are typical for the Calabrian and Neapolitan cuisine – known around the world for its wondrous taste. She picked some recipes that were passed down in her family – such as Chocolate Eggplant, Struffoli or Melanzane Parmiggiana, which have many different versions. The others are dishes she learned to cook recently or recipes from friends and relatives who encouraged her to illustrate them once they saw her first pieces. And when it comes to picking her speciality, she faces a tough choice.
“It is not easy for me to pick one. Many dishes that remind me of my childhood, I would never stop eating,” she says. “The Potatoes Gateau, for example, was one of the typical dishes of the Sunday lunch at my grandparents’ house. The Chocolate Eggplant are another very special dish, aubergine and chocolate combination is very unusual. But my specialite de la maison is probably the Melanzane Parmigiana, I think it is absolutely one of the dishes I love most,” she confesses.
Her other works often feature different themes – from women, superheroes, to everyday life. The piece she’s proud of the most is an illustration she made for Rogues comic book series of Amigo Comics. It depicted the titular barbarian warrior woman. The first chapters were also drawn by her favourite artist, so there was even more of an emotional attachment for her.
“I started drawing reading American comics, the art of Geof Darrow and Juan José Ryp inspired me especially. Their pages full of details have fascinated me from the first moment,” she speaks about her inspirations. “These two authors, along with the clear Franco-Belgian line, are my models with regard to style and design.”
And what makes her pick the objects, people and sceneries for her works?
“I find it very natural to express myself through drawing, from fantasy to science fiction, from historical settings to everyday life… probably the only things that I do not like to draw are the war stories,” Chiara tells us. “The ideas coming from the feelings and the moods of the moment, daily life have a significant impact on the creative process. The stimuli coming from the outside, from everyday life, they are a source of inspiration when I start to draw.”
When it comes to her design process, she’s pretty much traditional in her approach. A piece of paper and a pencil is enough to keep her going.
“Usually I always start with a sketch on paper, once defined the pencil drawing I ink with brushes or pens. After, the drawing is scanned and digitally coloured,” she explains. “In Drawing Recipes, the pieces are painted directly in digital, but for me, this is very rare.”
Chiara is currently working on a handful of projects – but her focus is, first and foremost, on the process itself.
“Draw, draw, draw! That’s the plan. I am preparing different sci-fi illustrations for Sigil Entertainment Group and beyond that, I’m working on a comic book for a French publisher but it is still early to talk about it,” she says. “And of course, Drawing Recipes vol. 2!”