Raised in a pizza shop, Marianna Fierro’s venture into food illustration came naturally
The Italian illustrator, now based between New York and LA, illustrates food and food only – a passion nurtured during a childhood filled with cooking.
- Ayla Angelos
- 6 July 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
To illustrate food is one thing, but to do it exclusively and to do it well is a completely different ball game. Marianna Fierro, an illustrator born and raised in a pizza shop in Italy, has perfected the art form by drawing inspiration from her food-centric childhood.
Marianna currently lives and works between New York and LA. How she got into the creative world was natural progression, with summers spent as a child doing a “tonne of arts and crafts, and definitely drawing,” as she puts it. Then, at the age of 16, she decided to pursue the medium of photography and, after arriving in the US for college, she landed on Visual Communication Design as she saw it as something that she could venture into professionally. “It was design, not illustration,” she says, noting how she’s always admired the world of illustrators and “wished” she could do what they do. “So, as a designer, I got more and more into making iconography for UI/UX purposes. It wasn’t until my friend Claire encouraged me to take up the 100 Days Project that I really got into illustration – specifically food illustration!”
Marianna grew up in an Italian pizza shop and was constantly surrounded by food. This upbringing in Italy allowed her to experience both fine dining and the “simplest ingredient grabbed from a tree in the middle of the countryside” – a part of her life that fuelled an adoration for food and cooking. “And it’s not just the produce, food or dish itself that is a key ingredient to the experience in my opinion,” she adds. “For me, the magic of food happens as it brings people together and it’s shared.” Community and storytelling is thus an important part of the process for Marianna, and is something she tries to bring to the fore of everything she does.
Looking at her illustrative work, you’ll notice that she focuses primarily on fruit and vegetables. A decision made because she feels like they’re “often taken for granted” or not appreciated as much as a “complete dish” or dessert, for example, “but more importantly because, to me, they bring so much colour, form and variety to the world! How can you not feel a little bit better when you look at, touch and eat a cherry?” This focus makes her portfolio utterly mouthwatering.
Although her illustration is currently more of a side hustle, Marianna makes sure to spend time working on this side of her practice. Her artistic mind is constantly in flux, with inspiration pulled from her food shopping trips, walking through farmers markets and from cooking. In addition, she also dedicates much of her time to research. “I like to learn more about the food I drew,” she says. “It’s a bit nerdy.” In this sense, she loves to dig out facts about the meals she eats and keeps them stored away in her mind for when she begins her digitally created works.
Marianna points to a recent cherry illustration, composed from an exercise she does when feeling slightly uninspired. “Which, in 2020, has been more often than not between a global pandemic and a very important movement for racial justice here in the US,” she says. The exercise goes a little like this: she picks a subject, establish a colour palette and then she lets herself experiment with different ways of execution. “I’d say most of my work has elements that repeat themselves to tie them all together – black shadow, blobby highlights, for example – yet I’m OK with not always executing with the same exact style.”
A firm believer that colour can have a lasting impact on a person’s mood, Marianna looks back to an influential winter spent in southern California last year. A result of which means that she’s started to bring flowers into her work “more and more”, a subject matter that she chose for its colourful properties – just like with food. As for the future, we can expect an influx of blooms in the weeks to come, and we can’t wait to see how she pulls it all together.