Endless Questions: Sushi, Chopsticks and Pencils
Cooking is very much an art. Spatula as a paint brush. Pasta as canvas. Tomato sauce as paint.
Malcolm Jones is both artist and eater. But he’s the best kind of artist: he features food in his work. I met Malcolm before the days of Endless Simmer, before every thought led to something edible. But I always knew I wanted his art in my life, even as I was half passed out on a couch, watching him draw while we tuned into reruns of E.R.
Now we meet with sushi as our center, Malcolm joining the party with pencils and Photoshop and me with chopsticks.
Malcolm recently released a series of sushi prints. Always hungry, ES wanted to investigate food through an artistic mind. And while I love Mal and his art, don’t even get me started on what he had to say about guacamole.
Gansie@ES: Food has a long history of being the subject for art. Food is colorful, textural, always in the process of deteriorating. Well, except for Twinkies. What turned you on to food as art?
MalJones: Both of my previous food illustration gigs were commissions: the vegetables to go with a Web site I built and the sushi was for an old friend’s birthday present. So it’s not like I went in to this saying “I’m going to draw food!” But people’s reactions, across the board, were positive. Something about food just clicked with people. And that reaction has clicked with me.
There’s something pure and fun about it. The colors of a good meal, the fact that people enjoy food no matter where they come from in the world, people coming together around some good food to enjoy each other’s company… it’s those impressions, those memories, that made the illustrations a blast.
Drawing the sushi from memory was nothing like a still life, or a classical interpretation of food as art. I try not to think really heavily about why I draw what I draw. Next thing you know I’ll be smoking unfiltered cigarettes and then debating the benefits of post-modernism-modernism in today’s society.
Gansie@ES: Sushi eating is a serious undertaking. There are rules and etiquette to adhere to. And plenty of controversies: Do I dip my sushi in soy sauce? Can I use my fingers? Does cooked eel smothered in BBQ sauce count as sushi?
Your illustrations are whimsical with a sense of joy and lightheartedness. Nothing serious about them. How would you argue your sushi point of view to a sushi chef?
MalJones: I’m not that serious a guy when it comes to art, it takes a lot of the enjoyment out of creating. I like energy and motion and making people smile (or at least pause for moment) because of what I create.
I’d like to think a sushi chef would see the economy of line and color in the illustrations and see something that’s very in line with the philosophy of sushi and its history. They’re craftsman, like me, and I enjoy the objects they make to bring people pleasure, I’d like to think they would enjoy mine.
Drawing an illustration and making a piece of sushi are very similar undertakings, really. A few strokes here, correcting lines there, creating arrangements of things that initially don’t seem to go together.
Gansie@ES: Regardless of authenticity, I’m a sucker for any roll filled with avocado. What’s your favorite sushi?
MalJones: Unagi, hands down. Man do I love eel. A close second, though, is a good tuna roll.
Gansie@ES: What’s the next food to appear on your canvas? (Hint, say avocado.)
MalJones: Avocado. But not guacamole. I can’t really stand the stuff.
Mal Jones’ prints can be purchased at my InPrnt shop in any number of sizes. If you’re interested in the original line art, get in touch with Mal: firstname.lastname@example.org. (And a happy birthday shout out to Mal!)