Food Paintings from my 5-Year Journal // A.C.

Food Paintings from my 5-Year Journal // A.C.

As I write this, I’ve had the satisfaction of shutting the covers on all my 2022 journals except the Hobonichi 5-year. Since I began the journal in 2019, 2023 will be the final year recorded in it. I expect I’ll have to take some time next December to mull over its full contents, the five years of pattern, cycle and change it contains. But, in the meantime, here’s one simple constant over the years I can share: food drawings!

The way I keep my food memories has changed a bit over the years. When I first began filling in the 5-year, I was more ambitious and did fairly detailed watercolors, using photos taken during the meal as reference. In most of my work as an artist I use a very strong and elaborate line, but for food journaling I’d keep it “lineless” and color-focused. I drew the dishes in pencil, then painted the colors and shapes in with gouache or watercolor—it’s a miracle that this incredibly thin paper can hold water media almost completely without wrinkling or bleed-through!—then erased the pencil lines. I also kept the paintings very small and compact, leaving room for later years’ drawings. Maybe also for this reason, a lot of the food drawings from earlier years are in the upper-right or left corners of the spread.

In later years, it became clear to me that there was no need to be so fastidious. As much as my consistency-loving, visual-pattern-seeking brain loves the idea of five years of memories gathered in one place, there really are very few pages that actually have drawings from multiple years on it. And so I began a “go big or go home” approach to memory-keeping. The more recent food drawings take up the entire page and sometimes include background details like the takeout box it came in, or the color of the blankets to remember that I was eating in bed. I also had less time for journal drawings in the years when work picked up, and as my priority shifted from accuracy to speed, the medium and style did too. I would leave the pencil lines in, or in some of the 2022 paintings, skip penciling entirely and doodle the food from memory with a ballpoint pen. Color is a task for a future me to slap on later.

All that said, as I flip through the 5-year now, I realize that it doesn’t really matter whether I was trying to faithfully capture or haphazardly scribble the food I ate: when I look at the drawings, I remember exactly how I felt when I was eating it. I remember the healing, warm and refreshing taste of pho, the dish I always crave when I come back to LA from a long trip on a cold, rainy day. I do not remember the taste of the hors d’ouevres that were served at my publisher’s 2019 holiday party, but I do remember, as in a blurry photo, how I accepted way more of them from the servers than I could actually hold and then downed two glasses of wine because I was so nervous and excited to be there. I remember the time my partner saw I was sad and took me out in the dead of night to get donuts from the 24/7 mom-and-pop shop down the street, the sweetness and gratitude making the sprinkles embedded in the chocolate taste even better.

At the end of a year, I tend to get impatient with planners. Sometimes I’ll write bigger, faster, messier, trying to get to the last page quicker. As the number of pages dwindles down to the single digits, I feel as if I’m having a meal in a toasty room, watching a door take its sweet time swinging shut while a freezing wind blows in. Is it a desire for closure? Or just excitement to continue the feast? Either way, 2023 has arrived and many memories await under these gleaming, covered dishes. Let’s dig in.

Text and photos by: A.C. Esguerra

Where to find A.C. : instagram @blueludebar

Read other stories by A.C. : Here

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