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Cookbooker

January 26, 2011
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When I set out to make the original Great Gal calendars, drawing the portraits of the women I admired, I felt that I was at last finding a way to actively engage with the inspiration so many of these women and their images ignited.  I have always been deeply affected by images–and the women I was inspired by, Virginia Woolf, Lynda Barry, Joan Jett, etc. littered the walls of my bedroom, but were infuriatingly just STUCK there.  I wanted to ENGAGE with them somehow not just stare at them and wish I was them.  Drawing their portrait seemed to unlock the door in this way.  I felt I was DOING something with that inspiration instead of just getting HIGH on it.

I started drawing cookbooks when I thought it would be fun to copy The Joy of Cooking.  I don’t think I’m alone in finding something inexplicably comforting and pop arty about the red lettering.  I’d never drawn a book before, and felt scared to try it, but when I did something like a *POP* when off in my brain.  It was a rough, quick drawing, but it touched something in me that had been waiting to be lit off–and just like that I was HOOKED.

Cookbooks have always had a humurous and fanciful place in my family kitchen.  My folks’ Pam and Gary have a great collection–some of them useful and worn out, like The Joy of Cooking or the James Beard New Cookbook; some of them just for the novelty of them, like the R. Crumb cookbook or the Jell-o cookbook.  As I have mentioned before, books are very important to me, but like the pictures of the women I posted on my wall, sometimes I just have had NO IDEA to do with what they give me.  I feel like drawing them is a new way to engage with their visual inspiration.  For years the two volume Gourmet cookbook sat unopened on Pam and Gary’s shelves until I decided to look at them.  Inside I found a treasure trove of adorable language and incredible sounding dishes.  Brandied Oranges, anyone?  Sure I’ll have that after some wine soup and Egg Balls Parisienne!  I was so in love with these books, with chapter titles like “Song of the Soup Kettle,” that I set out to write a novel with the language it used.  Three drafts later, it never worked–but I got to keep the cookbooks and I still find them inspiring.  Now I can draw it!

The cool thing I can tell is that it’s already changing my skills as an illustrator.  I’ve always wanted to be better at lettering and at drawing non-people, and drawing these books has deeply impacted how I look at book design, fonts, and all kinds of things that probably means NOTHING to anybody else, but gets me so so giddy.  Plus, I know I am on to something when I enjoy it so much that I don’t care if anyone else does.  Also, when that *POP* goes off in my brain and when something about what I am working on GLOWS.

Last week, in search of a first edition of a James Beard cookbook I went to the Bonnie Slotnick Cookbook store in the village and OH MY LORD. PEOPLE—it was like entering a HEROIN DEN.  Wall to wall of OBSCURE and GORGEOUS cookbooks, my eyes nearly FELL OUT OF MY HEAD.  SO MANY visual delights–I wanted to take them all home.  I didn’t find the James Beard book, but I found a 1946 copy of the Joy of Cooking, and INCREDIBLE red and white covered Betty Crocker cookbook from 1950, and a beautiful June Platt Cookbook (drawings forthcoming).  When I came home so STONED and OUT OF MY MIND with inspired desire, Graham took one look at me and said, “I’m a little scared.”

(Me too, honey, me too.)

10 Comments
  1. Annie Pazoo permalink
    January 26, 2011 3:30 am

    Would you please, please, please make prints of these and sell them, Summer? Or one big collage print? I love book art. I mean art with books. Seriously.

  2. January 26, 2011 1:57 pm

    The 1950 Betty Crocker is the one I grew up with, and was pleased to get a used one from a friend. Two of my favorite recipes are Dinette Cake – quick, eay and yummy!! And the Poppyseed Cake recipe. That one is involved, and has a cream filling, but it was our family’s birthday cake until my grandma passed.
    Enjoy!!!

  3. summer permalink*
    January 26, 2011 2:18 pm

    Annie! In all seriousness, I am WORKING ON IT! Thank you for your encouragement–it means a lot!

    Simply Tree – you see this is why I love drawings these books. I want to make that poppyseed cake! Maybe I will!

  4. Sarah permalink
    January 26, 2011 2:24 pm

    My goodness these are glorious! !!
    For me too, cookbooks are a source of deep pleasure and comfort. I even worked at a cookbook publishing company for years…. Would love to buy prints.

  5. January 26, 2011 10:35 pm

    I second (or is it third) the request for prints. It’s especially fitting for me given that I run cookbooker.com!

  6. Cecile permalink
    January 27, 2011 10:12 am

    I just printed out the page and even in black&white the bookcovers look stunning! (Don’t worry, I only printed them for my personal enjoyment.) Such a great idea to draw the things you love: faces, book covers, shoes…

    Fourthing the request for prints🙂

  7. Miss K permalink
    January 27, 2011 4:42 pm

    GOOOOORRRRRGEOUS!!! Food + Art + beautiful design. As always, you are amazing!

  8. January 28, 2011 1:57 am

    After reading today’s post about the possibility of prints being in the works, I had to come back to this one to look at all of them again. Love. Makes me want to send you some of my old books to paint. Or get thee back to the den-of-cookbook-iniquity and get goin’. Oh my gosh I am excited. Also? My mind has switched into marketing gear. Will you sell here or Etsy (despite it’s issues, it’s easier to create the social buzz there). And: let’s see, time to get these featured on Kitchn/apartment therapy, and design sponge, and, the list is endless. I love that they look so much like the real thing, but also are very clearly SUMMER drawings. Talent: you has it.

  9. Mare Freeborn permalink
    January 28, 2011 6:10 pm

    Hey! Love these drawings! They’re awesome! Also – really, really love the website for The Bonnie Slotnick Cookbook Store. How cool that she invites you to just call & chat about books. I may do just that – this kinda warmed my heart a little. Oh, the joys of actual human to human contact!!!! 😉

  10. Maureen Ehlbeck permalink
    February 6, 2011 3:13 am

    Summer,

    I love this artwork! I also love your love of the females who inspire you. I’ve had the same inclination myself in the past year and thought about making a board game, or somehow making them into little figures. I thought about them too and how they would interact with eachother (I have some men in mine as well, i.e. Andy Warhol and Lewis Grizzard). I also like the idea that if I am having a bad day or in a slump I could gather these little figures around me and ask them their thoughts (Frieda Kuehlo is one, too). Anyway, I just thought I’d relate!
    🙂
    Maureen

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