This Italian vegetables illustration marks a serious victory for me as an illustrator. Some say, watercolour is the hardest medium to harness. This certainly was the case for me! It took a while, but I’ve finally found a way to create a watercolour illustration that I can confidently include in my portfolio!
I have never had a problem with opaque mediums like gouache. Gouache is way too easy and straightforward to master. You mix your colours, decide on the density and the opaqueness of the paint, and you’re good to go. There aren’t too many variables to be mindful of for you to create an illustration in gouache.
Watercolour, on the other hand, is a totally different creature. It’s wild and unpredictable. Moody and quite sensitive. Yet, it is precise! Use the wrong kind of paper or apply too many coats and glazes and your piece is ruined.
You need to be in the right head space to create a beautiful watercolour piece. At least in my case. Watercolour requires a higher level of craftsmanship than its tamer cousin, the gouache. It’s like a wild horse that’s super challenging to tame.
That’s why I chose to pour all my energy into the challenge of watercolour.
A while back, I made a watercolour and pen-and-ink illustration of my analogue tools. I then created another post of my beautiful L’Occitaine toner bottles, followed by two ink and watercolour illustrations of Italian groceries and a floral packaging illustration. To complete the artworks, I used an ink fine liner and simple and straightforward washes of watercolour.
I know I can do this over and over again and make it my signature style. But my love for constant change and experimentation is part of my character from quite an early age. I can’t just do the same thing on repeat. I need to challenge myself and learn something new every day!
Over the past few months, I tried several kinds of paper, and different ways of creating watercolour artwork. I finally found my rhythm in watercolour contained within ink lines using a dip pen. The unpredictability of dip pens and how they like to flood the page with more ink than intended, seemed like the perfect match to the moodiness of watercolour.
For this illustration, instead of my black ink pens, I went for a brown shade of permanent ink. I think it mingled beautifully with the watercolours in this piece.
Italian Vegetables Illustration (illustrazione di Verdure Italiane): EU-protected Italian Veggies
All of the ingredients in this illustration, except for the pomegranates, are staples of the authentic Italian cuisine.
Many of the Italian vegetables in this illustration are also under EU labels like DOP and IGP. DOP is short for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, i.e. “Protected Designation of Origin – PDO.” IGP, on the other hand, is short for Indicazione Geografica Protetta and means “Protected Geographical Indication – PGI.” You can read more about these two labels over here.
So, here are my favourites:
The illustration above is of the lovely Porcini mushrooms from Borgotaro (fungho porcino di Borgotaro – IGP). They have a distinct taste and you can purchase them fresh or dried.
To make the famous Italian pesto, you need fresh leaves of the Genoese basil (basilico Genovese – DOP).
And to make fresh lemonade in Italy, the yellow lemons of Sorrento (limoni di Sorrento – IGP) are your best choice for making a cool summer drink.
Let me mention other veggies and herbs in this illustration:
San Marzano tomatoes (pomodoro di San Marzano – DOP). Parsley (prezzemolo). Rosemary (rosmarino). Lamon beans (fagiolo di Lamon della Vallata Bellunese – IGP). And courgette or zucchini flowers (fiori di zucchini).
The mesmerising history of Italy’s San Gimignano Saffron
The San Gimignano Saffron (Zafferano di San Gimignano – DOP) acquired the European DOP/PDO label in 2004. This guarantees to consumers that it will always be from the area of San Gimignano, and no other place on earth. Come to think of it, knowing that Italy bans genetically modified organisms (GMOs), one can rest assured this saffron is the real deal, grown from heirloom seeds that hail to hundreds of years ago.
In fact, according to the consortium of the San Gimignano saffron, historic documents prove that “saffron has been grown in San Gimignano since the 13th century.” Medieval sources about this saffron species are “so exceptionally abundant that we can even reconstruct the location of the lands used for it.”
And here’s the punchline: “The oldest documentation even tells us which families were involved in growing and trading it. We can also see that so much was earned from these businesses that many families made their fortunes.”
I’m going to be honest here! Reading this story, my love for Italy has quadrupled!
The thorny artichokes of Sardinia
This plant (Carciofi Spinoso di Sardegna – DOP) has been an agricultural staple of the beautiful Italian island of Sardinia since ancient times. The first available evidence dates back to the year 1700, where a “Manual on Agriculture in Sardinia” by Don Andrea Manca explains its unique properties and farming techniques. According to historic sources, Milan and Turin imported this thorny artichoke and it was there that it was classified as a “Sardinian artichoke.”
I have a traditional Sardinian recipe made with artichokes. Perfect for summertime! I’m thinking maybe I should post it in my Illustrated Italian Recipes blog series! Until then, take care of yourselves and hope to see you soon in another post!
Analogue and traditional media artwork | Italian vegetables illustration by illustrator and artist Yaansoon