Portfolio | From Apple to Umami

Mary Ellen Johnson

Big PBJ & Jelly Jar, oil, 24 x 48.

“Comfort, tradition, and nostalgia are some of the themes that I was interested in depicting with BIG PBJ & JELLY JAR. Memory is deeply connected to the senses. Just the sight of food can create a system of complex physiological and psychological reactions in the body, which in turn can make you hungry and stir reminiscence.
“I wanted the painting to have a monumental feeling when viewed, so I decided to make it quite large. I made the composition tightly cropped to maximize focus. I had a great deal of fun painting the glowing reds and shifting hues of the reflections on the jelly. I built texture with paint to give the feeling of fluffy bread. The jelly jar was very interesting to paint with the refractions of light glowing through the translucent jelly.”

O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York, NY; Watts Fine Art, Zionsville, IN; www.maryellenjohnson.net.


Queen Anne and Bing Cherries, oil, 32 x 40.

“Still lifes are great fun to paint because I can eat the models. They are sensuous, happy compositions of circles. In a still life, I can use all these wild colors. I am known for my horse paintings—their palette, however, is more subdued. Still lifes can be painted freely, whereas the Indians I paint wear authentic costumes and must be intricately rendered. I like edges and contrast, but I also need ‘melt.’ These cherries lend themselves magically to each element: The pale cherry has a singular translucency and blush that is foiled by the dark cherry’s ability to reflect odd shades of sage or gray. What a challenge it is to capture these effects! Props are important: Pile the cherries into an old Chinese bowl from my grandmother, and—yes!”

Manitou Galleries, Santa Fe, NM.


Shawn Kenney

Fish & Chips, acrylic, 20 x 20.

“My food paintings are about the shared pleasures of the table. I’m equally inspired by trips to local markets and culinary getaways. We have this fantastic little seafood place nearby where our usual order is a ‘to go’ brought home to enjoy with wine. Their Fish ‘n’ Chips had been on my wish list for a while, but when I first started the food works five years ago, juggling this many elements while keeping the feeling fresh, informal, and lit-by-the-fridge-at-midnight was beyond the measure of my powers. On this particular night, opening this box, I knew the time had come.”

Charlestown Gallery, Charlestown, RI; Powers Gallery, Acton and Concord, MA; Bayview Gallery, Brunswick and Camden, ME; www.shawnkenney.com.

Robert C. Jackson

The Beast, oil, 72 x 44.

“I often use food in my still-life paintings; it is the universal traditional prop. However, I like to kick it up a notch, anthropomorphizing the objects to narrate whatever occupies my mind. All of my still lifes are pretty un-still, and THE BEAST is no exception. This is part King Kong and part Frankenstein (or more like Young Frankenstein in my world). A King Kong watermelon holds a Fay Wray apple; rescuers strafe the tower in their balsa-wood planes, as townsfolk come below with torches and pointed sticks. The whole piece becomes a conduit for imagination. I aim to create work that gives the viewer fodder for daydreams for years to come.”

Arden Gallery, Boston, MA; Gallery 1261, Denver, CO; Gallery Henoch, New York, NY; Somerville Manning Gallery, Greenville, DE; Southport Galleries, Southport, CT; Zenith Gallery, Washington, DC; www.robertcjackson.com.

John Schieffer

Appletini, oil, 48 x 24.

“For my paintings I choose iconic foods that are pleasing to the eye. When fruit is colorful and beautiful, it is telling us it is ripe and good to eat. The beauty of food has this strong instinctive reaction from us that often draws us to it. In paintings, food has the same effect. The feelings that are evoked by the taste are varied, but it is the memory of it that we keep. When we see food, we remember our last experience with it. As an artist trying to create moments or experiences for people, I find that food has a strong, immediate impact. Seeing beautiful food in a painting stirs great emotion in us.”

Meyer Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Bonner David Galleries, Scottsdale, AZ; Wynne/Falconer Gallery, Chatham, MA.


David Simons

Onions, oil, 12 x 16.

I saw these onions on my kitchen counter one day, and I stopped and decided that I just had to paint them. I loved the arrangement and how the warm color notes of the onions played against the cooler grays. As I started painting this subject, I saw more and more subtle changes and color shifts that I wanted to capture. The warm and cool whites worked well as the center of interest, and the overall color and value relationships were very pleasing to me. I kept the details to a minimum. I was more interested in the larger shapes and color.”

K. Newby Gallery, Tubac, AZ; The Max Gallery, Tucson, AZ; M Gallery, Charleston, SC; www.davidsimonsfineart.com.

Featured in December 2011.