How Playing With Her Food Helped Define This Illustrator’s Success
A quick peruse of illustrator Gretchen Röehrs' Instagram feed and we were hooked. One look and you'll be charmed by her charismatic fashion-meets-food drawings, from playful banana peel jumpsuits to quirky kale gowns. Most recently,...
by Dylan Essertier

A quick peruse of illustrator Gretchen Röehrs' Instagram feed and we were hooked. One look and you'll be charmed by her charismatic fashion-meets-food drawings, from playful banana peel jumpsuits to quirky kale gowns. Most recently, the illustrator released a book with Rizzoli featuring the best of her culinary-inspired creations. And yet, when Röehrs first joined Instagram and started posting her playful sketches she wasn’t thinking about likes or comments or followers; she was just having a good time. “It was a happy accident,” Röehrs explains of her success. Read on to learn more about this talented illustrator’s creative journey, as well as her tips for turning a creative passion into a profession.

When did you first become interested in art? And sketching specifically?

“I started drawing when I was young. Before I could talk or probably even walk. It was just my preferred method of communicating with the world—and to be honest, it still is to this day. I just find it much easier to communicate emotions and feelings through art and truly believe that’s why it has stuck with me for so long and why I first started sketching and painting and drawing in the first place.”

How did you foray this passion into a career?

“Honestly, it was a happy accident! I went to school for fashion design and product development so I learned the more technical side of fashion. With that education came a good foundation for learning how to draw and so that definitely helped me a lot. But honestly, when I graduated I wasn’t sure that I would be able to find a job. I had this desire to move to New York, but I didn’t know if I could afford it, so I was a little bit scared, and decided that I would try California. I had never been there but it seemed like a lovely place {laughs} so I kind of just decided that could be an interesting route. So I came out here and started working in tech and drawing offered a way for me to stay in touch with that more artistic side of myself. It became a hobby to post on Instagram and then from there it just kind of took off.”


When did you first realize you wanted to incorporate food into your sketches?

“I always have had a kind of funny style of drawing and have always liked to include humor in my sketches. It didn’t really come to me one day, I just kind of sketched what was in my lunch and continued on with my day. I didn’t really think that I had any sort of genius idea or anything but once I started posting to Instagram people that I didn’t know started liking it and following me and it kind of took on a life of its own.”

What was the first food that you sketched?

“I think it was some blackberries.”


What are your art influences and inspirations?

“I look to the history of some fashion photographers, like Irving Penn for example, who did these amazing still-life arrangements that have inspired so much of the prop photography and lay down photography that we have today. It’s fun to dig through archives like that. In terms of following people on Instagram, I love @Ruba, who seems to do a little of everything. She works in New York and posts this amazing dump of archival photos everyday. I’m talking like 50 a day. It’s all high fashion and interesting cultural shots on Instagram stories. It’s so cool to watch these time capsules come alive that you don’t often come across these days.”


Where’s your favorite place to sketch?

“I typically just sketch at my kitchen table. It’s a very easy place to get to. I do have a studio and I love working there, but when it comes to everyday sketching that’s where I love the most.”

Is sketching currently your full-time job?

“I personally never want my art to be dependent on my financial wellbeing. That’s not something that I find very soothing and I don’t want it to affect my art. So for me, it’s really fun to think of this as a side career without having to worry if I need to pay rent.”

What advice do you have for aspiring creatives? Especially those who have a side passion or hobby and are eager to introduce it into the world.

“I have two pieces of advice that have really helped me. First, don’t doubt your ideas and creativity and just go with it. Even if you don’t think it’s a good idea just spend five minutes a day towards that passion project that you might be scared of or even hesitant to tell people about because you don’t have anything to show for it yet. I promise if you devote that small amount of energy to it everyday you’ll find it adds up quickly and you’ll want to devote even more time to doing it.

And the second piece of advice I can give is that as long as you can swing it don’t add on another layer of stress by making yourself financially dependent on what you love. It’s kind of this harsh and scary world out there and one of the last things you need hindering your creative process is this anxiety around money and security. I think there are those people who don’t want to talk about that side of the industry, but I think it’s an important thing to talk about because unless you come from a trust fund it’s really difficult to inspire yourself to do the work. Especially at the end of the day when you have a job and you have all of these social commitments. I mean its a struggle for everyone, it’s a struggle for me, but I think if you just carve out five minutes you’ll find that it’s a totally manageable and achievable to devote yourself to your creativity. And if one day you’re able to make a living off of it, that’s amazing.”


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about the correspondent
Gretchen Röehrs
Product Designer & Fashion Illustrator.
San Francisco, CA, USA
I like Italian shoes and spaghetti westerns. Product Designer & Fashion Illustrator. - Website

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