Visual Grammar Experimentation

I’ve been noticing lots of dots and lines in food so I’ve been thinking for some time about the visual grammar project. I wanted to try to see if I could deconstruct some things I’ve been cooking into their visual grammar. One of the dishes I’ve been cooking a lot is a 1970s favourite dessert, Caramelised Oranges. It’s very easy. Simply peel and slice some oranges, arrange them on a plate, make some caramel and pour it over, together with a good slosh of alcohol – I’ve been using bourbon to make the dessert equivalent of an Old Fashioned.

It’s in the making of the caramel that is most interesting from a visual grammar point of view. What starts out as sugar and water in a saucepan, slowly bubbles and boils, changes colour several times from clear to golden brown…


There’s potential in the oranges too…


Taking on board what Tony said about my research being one dimensional, I tried avoiding the computer all morning to see what I could do with my hands to abstract these images, focusing on the oranges…


Tracing over the photos…


I then turned to see if I could translate these into Illustrator.

The first attempt (including trying to make the oranges a little realistic, with some help from someone online who clearly likes drawing oranges in Illustrator) didn’t achieve what I had in mind. It was too representational which detracts from what I was trying to achieve which was to highlight the dots…


My 10 year old nephew didn’t think much of it either… “not very bold… it’s average but sadly below OK” was what he had to say. Here’s his drawing of the chopped oranges:

So I had another go, taking out the realism that I’d spent ages doing (radial gradients, gaussian blurs etc). What I had noticed from the initial attempt was the the little centre dots (brownish on the skin of the whole oranges, white in the slices) were important and in fact I thought we what gave the oranges their orangeness i.e.the negative space was important. There’s also a bit of gestalt continuity going on here too.

So here’s my next effort hopefully showing four stages of the recipe – whole oranges, sliced, peeled and arranged on the plate, covered in caramel (the slight variations in colour)…


So please tell me what you think, and Tony I’d welcome feedback on whether this is closer to what you mean by another dimension.



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