From her desk in Reggio Emilia, the beating heart of what is considered to be the Italian Food Valley, Lucia creates magical, mouth-watering drawings and graphics. At the age of 35, Lucia Catellani is one of the most well-known food illustrators in Italy; having spent her whole professional life as a freelance, one might already point at her as a superhero.
Like many other Italians working in the food system, her story starts in her family kitchen, where many of her ragù-scented memories belong to. Even when it was time for her to move to London, she packed in her luggage her deep knowledge of traditional Emilian cuisine and a great experience from many Sundays spent cooking at home. While studying for a Master in Graphic Design at the University of Arts, she broadened her interest to a wider level, and started exploring food from an aesthetical, social and convivial perspective.
Then she found that her insatiable curiosity for the visual aspect of food, its shapes and colors, but also its trends and consumption, was not only a knack of hers. With a group of friends back in Reggio Emilia, she founded La Papilla Brilla, a cultural association whose aim is to create original culinary experiences with a proactive engagement of guests.
Projects and paths get often entangled, and many people participating at the events run by La Papilla Brilla became pretty soon Lucia’s clients. In the last few years, she has worked on visual identities, packagings and editorial projects for a great variety of food businesses: from restaurants to festivals, from shops to farms. Through her works, Lucia gives shape and color to recipes, ingredients and even landscapes.
Food projects might be challenging -or at least, more challenging of a non-food project. In fact, Lucia is aware that we all have a direct and intimate experience of food; we relate to it every single day, at the point that we might assume we know pretty much everything about it. As a consequence, a food illustration or graphics must be somehow mesmerizing: it must surprise and attract people’s attention. It must inform with a clear and loud communication, in a original and pleasant shape.
So how does Lucia do that?
She plays with details and colors in any way possible to transform her illustrations into something appealing and literally tasty. So she does the other way around: from her point of view, she’s able to transform food into graphical elements, like a colour palette out of an avocado and a beetroot, or a logo and a font out of ears of wheat.
Eventually, according to Lucia, any illustration or graphics becomes successful when it sticks in the mind and in the memory of people. Just like the glorious Proust Madeleine!
Author Francesca Mastrovito